The European Parliament has called on the authorities in Minsk to put an end to intimidation and threats against journalists. “Against the background of the worsening media freedom situation in Belarus, members of the European Parliament condemn the state’s repeated arrests and harassment of journalists and independent news agencies,” MEPs said in a statement on Thursday.
The parliamentarians said it is unacceptable for the authorities to block access to the leading independent Belarussian news portal “Charter-97”, as has been the case since January. In addition, the European Parliament condemned the recently adopted amendments to the media law, which, they said are being used to create bureaucratic difficulties for journalists and to tighten control over the Internet.
“The European Parliament regrets that Belarus continues to pursue a repressive and undemocratic policy towards journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of civil society. Such repression impedes any rapprochement with the EU and participation in the Eastern Partnership program,” the statement says.
The deputies called for the immediate release of political prisoners Mikhail Zhemchuzhny and Dmitry Palienko without any conditions and recommended that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini monitor the situation surrounding media freedom in Belarus more closely.
At the beginning of August, the offices of tut.by, the information resource BelaPAN and a number of other media outlets were searched. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the police detained and questioned about 20 people.
Journalists are suspected of illegal access to the paid information of the state news agency “BelTA”. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2017 and 2018, without the knowledge and consent of the state agency, more than 15,000 connections were made to the information stored in its computer system.