The Belarusian Association of Journalists has won the Media Freedom Award, an honor bestowed by the governments of Britain and Canada for the first time in 2020, the foreign ministries of the two countries said on November 16.
The Minsk-based group was singled out for its “ongoing commitment to journalistic ethics and principles and its perseverance and self-sacrifice in the face of increased targeted crackdowns on media in Belarus," the Canadian government said in a statement.
The award was presented at the end of the second global conference on press freedom hosted virtually by Canada and Botswana.
"Reporters who covered mass protests against election fraud and state violence have become victims of violence and fraud themselves,” said Andrey Bastunets, chairman of the association in a news release. “They have been beaten, their equipment damaged or seized, and they have been sent to jail by unfair court decisions."
The Media Freedom Award aims to promote international action to bolster security for journalists around the world, according to Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.
“It is very important that journalists, wherever they work in the world, can cover what is happening without fear of revenge, censorship, and punishment," Raab said during the virtual award ceremony. "I pay tribute to the Belarusian Association of Journalists for their commitment to covering human rights and election fraud in the face of violence, threats, and intimidation. The work of those who defend media freedom has never been more important."
Almost daily demonstrations have taken place in Minsk since the August 9 presidential election in which Alyaksandr Lukashenka was declared the landslide winner. The opposition says the election was rigged and the West has refused to accept the result.
Thousands of people have been arrested and several killed.