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RSF Urges UN To Address 'Violent Crackdown' On Journalists In Belarus


Journalists Uladz Hrydzin and Alyaksandr Vasyukovich were released on September 24 after 11 days in jail in Minsk.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has formally asked the United Nations to condemn the "unprecedented violent crackdown" on journalists as well as censorship in Belarus following a presidential election in August that has triggered nationwide protests and international scorn.

RSF said it had referred the crackdown on press freedom in Belarus to three UN human rights experts on October 22 and called on them to "make every possible effort to get the Belarusian authorities to guarantee that all abuses against journalists and media and all obstacles to the freedom to inform cease at once."

The Paris-based media-freedom watchdog is also calling for all violations of journalists' rights to be thoroughly and impartially investigated, "including at the international level."

Those responsible should be prosecuted in compliance with international standards, the group told the three UN special rapporteurs -- on freedom of opinion and expression; on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Protests against Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka have been ongoing since the disputed presidential election on August 9 that the opposition and Western governments say was rigged. A subsequent crackdown by the authorities has resulted in several deaths, hundreds of injuries, and more than 10,000 arrests.

The authorities have also "violently and relentlessly suppressed the freedom to inform for more than three months, although this is a key moment for democracy and the rule of law in Belarus," said Paul Coppin, the head of RSF's legal unit.

The crackdown on journalists included "widespread and arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, prolonged detentions, beatings, deportations, and withdrawal of accreditation," RSF said, adding that the authorities also disconnected the Internet and restricted access to news sites and electronic messaging services.

RSF said it had reported hundreds of violations of journalists' rights since the election, including 290 detentions.

Seven journalists are currently in jail.

Ruled by Lukashenka for 26 years, Belarus is ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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