Belarus: harassment of journalists’ association is unacceptable

Brussels, June 22, 2021 – The Belarusian Ministry of Justice ordered on 21 June an inspection of the activities of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) will denounce at the highest level any attempt to intimidate and harass its Belarussian affiliate and those responsible will be held accountable.

On 21 June, BAJ received an official letter demanding them to submit thousands of documents dating from 1 January 2018 to the Department of Non-Profit Organisations of the Ministry of Justice.

From these documents, the Ministry of Justice demands to see BAJ’s membership lists, membership application forms, minutes of all elected body meetings held since the beginning of 2018, all incoming and outgoing messages during that period and all their financial documents, among others.

The Ministry’s letter is dated 9 June, but it only reached BAJ’s headquarters on June 21. Initially, it set a deadline of 21 June for submitting the required documents. Contacted by the BAJ, a ministry representative said they expected the documents from BAJ to arrive by Wednesday morning, 23 June.

We have been acting according to the letter of law in all our activities since the creation of BAJ 25 years ago. However, the requirement to provide a huge list of documents in just 2 days is unrealistic. At the very least, because some of the requested documents are still kept by the Investigation Committee, after the search in the BAJ office on 16 February”, the IFJ and EFJ affiliate said.

These requests are pure harassment,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. It is pure intimidation. But the harassers of BAJ should know that we are not going to stop here. We call on the international community to launch targeted sanctions against those who harass journalists and their legitimate organisation in Belarus. We will take note of the names of those responsible for and carrying out this campaign of harassment. They will be held accountable!

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We stand in solidarity with the BAJ in the face of a terrible campaign of harassment and intimidation by the Belarussian authorities. The requirement to provide thousands of documents in just 2 days is unrealistic and only serves the purpose of harassing our colleagues. We will work to hold accountable those who harass journalists and their unions.