European Parliament urges Belarusian authorities to stop harassing journalists

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution urging the Belarusian authorities to end the judicial harassment, intimidation and threats against journalists and independent media outlets.

According to the resolution, the situation regarding freedom of media and freedom of speech continues to deteriorate in Belarus, which is proved by the severe harassment of independent news websites and journalists.

In particular, the resolution says that more than 100 journalists were arrested in 2017, mostly for covering opposition protests, and that the harassment of freelance journalists working for foreign media outlets has reached unprecedented levels.

The resolution mentions the blockage of the Warsaw-based Belarusian opposition news website charter97.org and police raids on the editorial offices of several independent media outlets, including tut.by and BelaPAN, in connection with a so-called BelTA case.

It points out that the raids resulted in the arrest and detention of several journalists over allegations that they had illegally used paid information services of the Belarusian government’s news agency BelTA.

According to the resolution, the latest amendments to Belarus’ Media Law, which were adopted in June 2018 and will come into force on December 1, 2018, will extend the government’s control to online media outlets and impose further bureaucratic hurdles on websites wishing to register as official online media outlets.

The resolution strongly condemns the repeated harassment of journalists and independent media outlets in Belarus and urges the authorities to end all judicial harassment, intimidation and threats against them and to allow all news websites to operate freely.

It considers the blockage of charter97.org to be unacceptable and calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift it.

The European Parliament reiterates its call on the Belarusian government to strengthen respect for democratic principles, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including respect for truthful and unbiased journalism.

It calls on the European External Action Service and the EU member states to ensure that the EU’s assistance programs and other forms of bilateral cooperation, including financial assistance, must be linked to clear and tangible steps towards democratization and openness, including comprehensive election reform and full respect for media freedom.