World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Belarus: ‘Black Hole’ For Media Freedoms After Egregious Attacks, Say UN Experts

GENEVA (7 June 2021) – UN human rights experts* today expressed outrage at the arrest, alleged torture and forced confession of social media activist and human rights defender Roman Protasevich (Raman Pratasevich), and the continued crackdown on independent media.

“The reckless manner in which Roman Protasevich was arrested, reports that he may have been tortured in order to extract a false confession, was denied access to his lawyer, and fears that he could face a harsh sentence show an utter disregard for international human rights norms by the authorities in Belarus,” independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said.

The experts expressed deep concern for the life of Mr. Protasevich and called for his immediate release – and that of journalists, human rights defenders and activists who are being detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or peaceful assembly.

“The outrageous manner in which Mr. Protasevich was intercepted and arrested shows that there is no limit to what this government will do to silence critics. It is an egregious example of a severe and relentless crackdown on all independent voices since the contested election results of August 2020,” they added.

The experts recalled that on 18 May 2021, the authorities searched the editorial offices of the largest Belarusian independent online news site, which had covered the protests that followed the election results. Law enforcement also carried out searches at the homes of several of its staff and confiscated a number of documents. At least 13 staff were reportedly detained, some of them without access to a lawyer, ostensibly in relation to a criminal investigation into tax evasion. In December 2020, was stripped of its media licence for supposedly spreading “false information”.

“Recent events indicate that media freedom in Belarus has entered a black hole with no end in sight. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath, the authorities have arbitrarily detained and beaten journalists, opposition members, human rights defenders and citizens participating in peaceful protests, prosecuted them on politically motivated charges, revoked media workers’ accreditation, raided their homes and offices, and blocked their websites,” they said.

The UN experts further expressed serious concern at recent amendments to the Mass Media Law and to the Law on Mass Gatherings. The changes give the authorities the power to block any media outlet’s work if the outlet publishes content that “threatens national security”, and to block access to any websites that disseminate information which is “aimed at promoting extremist activity” or which is “capable of harming the national interest”.

“We call on UN Member States to ramp up pressure on the Belarusian authorities to stop attacks on media freedom, release journalists, human rights defenders and others who are arbitrarily detained; and ensure independent, transparent and impartial investigations into all reported human rights violations committed in the context of the election, including allegations of torture and arbitrary detention,” they said.

The experts have previously raised their concerns with the Government of Belarus about the situation of journalists and media in the country.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN News: Landmark G7 Agreement Pledges 870 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses, Half By End-2021

A senior UN official welcomed on Sunday, the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations’ commitment to immediately share at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, supporting global access and helping to end the acute phase of the pandemic... More>>

OECD: G20 GDP Returns To Pre-pandemic Level In The First Quarter Of 2021, But With Large Differences Across Countries

Gross domestic product (GDP) of the G20 area returned to pre-pandemic level in the first quarter of 2021, growing by 0.8% compared with the fourth quarter of 2020. However, this figure conceals large differences across countries... More>>

Myanmar: ‘Mass Deaths’ Alert As 100,000 Flee Junta’s Heavy Weapons

In Myanmar, international action is needed urgently to prevent “mass deaths” there, after civilians fled attacks by so-called “junta bombs”, a top independent UN rights expert has warned... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UNFCCC: Halving Emissions By 2030 Is New Normal - Race To Zero Anniversary
Over 4,500 non-state actors from across the global economy have committed to halving emissions by 2030, joining the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign... More>>

UN: Tackling Biodiversity & Climate Crises Together And Their Combined Social Impacts

Unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world... More>>

G7: No Major G7 Stock Index Aligned With Paris Climate Goals

New research by CDP and the United Nations Global Compact on behalf of the Science Based Targets initiative calls on the largest G7 companies to take ambitious climate action... More>>