The new laws were signed this week by dictator Alexander Lukashenko. The state news agency PLTA states. Among other things, they say that reporters monitoring the demonstrations should be treated as participants in the protests. It is prohibited to publish information that could “harm national interests” – vague wording that could be interpreted as halting all forms of outright resentment.
It is unclear if it is a coincidence that Lukashenko has agreed to austerity measures for the time being. The situation of freedom of expression in Belarus is of particular concern, after the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevic and his girlfriend, law student Sofia Sapiga, at the end of last week.
For foreign media, it was extremely difficult to get permission to report from Belarus, but the new rules make this nearly impossible, says Eric Halkier.
In the latest ranking of Reporters Without Borders for press freedom, Belarus is 158th in the world. Along with Russia (150) and Turkey (153), it is the worst country in Europe. The three countries are dark red On the world map of Reporters Without Borders. At the moment, no country on our continent has the least honorable color, black.
But with recent developments, that may change.
I think I see Belarus with these laws approaching countries like Iran, China, Vietnam and Laos – where they completely limit the possibility of being on the Internet in principle, says Halkier, Chairman of Reporters Without Borders in Sweden.
– Then they end up in the group of countries completely black on our map, where there is no press freedom at all in principle.
According to estimates by Reporters Without Borders and others, dozens of journalists are currently detained in Belarus without reasonable cause. It is a minority of the nearly 500 arrested in connection with the protests critical of the regime last year. Erik Halkjaer believes that most of these are still in their home country, but they cannot or dare not report the situation there. A number of them also moved abroad.
‘Worst and worst’
One example is tut.by, the nation’s largest independent news site. Its executives were accused of tax evasion this week, and after raids, ten employees were arrested, according to Reporters Without Borders. The site is down, but the editorial staff appears to be able to continue reporting to some extent Via Twitter And other social media.
It may sound pessimistic and gloomy, but the Belarusians will not solve it, it will only get worse, says Eric Halkier.
For the democracies of the outside world, it is difficult to strike a balance to freeze Lukashenko without forcing him into deeper cooperation with other authoritarian leaders.
I dare say that the ball is in the court of the European Union and the (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), headed by Sweden, to work to stop this development, says the head of Reporters Without Borders.
Henrik Samuelson / TT
Facts: Freedom of classified media
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) works for freedom of the press around the world, and is compiling an index of freedom of information dissemination in 180 countries. Grouped in different colors, in order from most free to least, the countries become yellow, yellow, orange, red or black.
There are no black countries in Europe. Here are all of the world’s freest countries (in light yellow), as well as the most free countries in Europe (in red), with rankings on the global list:
5- Costa Rica
6. The Netherlands
8. New Zealand
Source: Reporters Without Borders