The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has canceled the accreditations of all foreign journalists in the country, saying the move was made as part of a reforming of the country's regulations and procedures for the media.
In a statement on October 2, the ministry said the accreditations are immediately considered invalid, and that journalists working for foreign media organizations in the country must reapply with a revamped accreditation commission that will start operating on October 5.
According to the statement, the move has been in the works for some time and will make it "easier" for foreign journalists to obtain accreditations.
However, the statement stresses that the changes were introduced as "our sovereign right" to "protect ourselves" in accordance with "the concept of the information security of the Republic of Belarus."
Meanwhile, many international news organizations, including RFE/RL, have correspondents in Belarus who are Belarusian nationals.
“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised, by this decision of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to annul all foreign media accreditations, especially in light of the harassment RFE/RL journalists, and those of other foreign media outlets, have endured in the past three months,” acting RFE/RL President Daisy Sindelar said in a statement on October 2.
News outlets from around the world have been covering ongoing opposition protests in Belarus challenging the official results of an August 9 presidential election that handed incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka a landslide victory.
The protesters say the results were falsified and that opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya won the most votes.
Lukashenka, who has refused to step down and has rejected the opposition's calls for dialogue, had himself secretly sworn in on September 23, sparking outrage at home and abroad.
Western governments have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have called on him to peacefully transfer power.
“This action sends a clear signal to all Belarusians that the Lukashenka government has no interest in giving them what they want -- access to different perspectives from those put forth by the government itself. RFE/RL will continue to use every available avenue to provide our audiences in Belarus the uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate they so clearly desire,” Sindelar added.