Belarusian government blocks press and detains reporters


Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — Belarusian authorities blocked major online media websites and detained some journalists on Thursday. This is the latest move in a thorough crackdown on the independent media that challenged the former Soviet state.

The Belarusian Ministry of Intelligence said the public prosecutor’s office blocked Nasha Niva’s website for posting unspecified illegal information.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) said authorities searched Nasha Niva’s office, detaining editor-in-chief Yahor Martsinovich and editor Andrey Skurko, and searching their apartments. According to BAJ, the other four Nasha Niva journalists could not be contacted.

Nasha Niva journalist Аrtsem Harbatsevich cracks down on previous actions by the authorities against another top independent news portal, Tut.by, as well as the website was blocked and journalists were detained in May. Was compared.

“It’s a crackdown on the editorial office in the worst Soviet tradition,” Harbatsevich told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Minsk.

Founded in 1906, Nasha Niva is the oldest and most prestigious Belarusian media. Its online audience is over 100,000.

Both Nasha Niva and Tut.by have extensively covered months of protests against Belarusian authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Authorities responded to the protests with a large-scale crackdown in which more than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were beaten by police. Major opposition figures have been imprisoned or forced to leave the country.

The European Union and the United States responded to the crackdown by slapping Belarus with sanctions. After Belarus arrested opposition journalists by circumventing jet airliners on May 23, they imposed new, stricter restrictions.

Tut.by’s website has been blocked since May, and 12 of its journalists remain in prison until trial.

Overall, 27 Belarusian journalists are currently in custody, either sentenced or awaiting trial, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

“The crackdown on independent media in Belarus continues,” said Andrey Bastune, head of the association. “Authorities have decided that information can be stolen from millions of citizens. Authorities consider journalist-independent information to be their main enemy.”

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