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IFJ Condemns ‘Shocking' Violence on Journalists in Belarus

December 23, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused authorities in Belarus of "violent bullying and intimidation" of journalists covering a peaceful protest in central Minsk yesterday, saying the brutality exposed the country's fragile attachment to democracy following presidential elections.

"The sheer violence and blatant disregard of journalists' right to cover a public event were shocking," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The scenes in Minsk reinforce the image of the intolerant and repressive rule and indicate just how distant Belarus is from the exercise of democracy."

The Belarussian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an IFJ affiliate, also condemned what is described as "shocking facts of severe force used by the police against journalists and civil activists in the evening of 19 December". The BAJ says Belarus and foreign journalists were attacked by Special Forces, beaten up, wrestled to the ground and made to lie in the snow, and had their equipment destroyed.

Media reports say police moved in to break up a peaceful gathering of opposition candidates and supporters at the Independence Square in Minsk which had gathered to protest over presidential elections results which gave victory to the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.

The IFJ says the clampdown on media and political opposition signalled the leadership's intention to continue its repression of political dissent and press freedom, heightening the tension in the country.

"Belarus will never achieve the status of a democratic state so long as it engages in systematic and violent repression of independent media and free journalism," added White. "Without press freedom there can be no democracy worthy of the name."

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: + 32 2 235 22 07

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