The Belarusian dictatorship carried out an attack on Tuesday (16) against journalists and human rights defenders in several cities across the country. KGB secret police and security raids have taken place in more than 21 locations, including the office of the Belarusian Journalists Association (AJB) and that of one of the main human rights bodies of the country, Viasna. The independent union REP was also targeted.
According to the regime, the objective is “to know the circumstances surrounding the funding of protest activities”. Since the re-election – considered fraudulent – of Alexandr Lukachenko in August last year, Belarusians have been demonstrating daily against the dictator and for new free elections despite constant government repression.
In the past six months, more than 400 journalists have been arrested while covering protests and this weekend there were 256 political prisoners in the country. This Tuesday, before being arrested, the activist Boris Haretski, vice-president of the AJB, posted on social networks, on a red background “They are breaking down my door. Wait, we didn’t do anything ”.
The president of the association of journalists, Andrei Bastunts, was taken at 8 a.m. (local time, 3 a.m. in Brazil) by police from his home to the AJB office, where a magazine would be made, according to his wife, Sabina. The police left the scene in the afternoon and Sabina has neither heard from her husband nor been able to contact him.
She and others affected by the operation say no arrest or search warrants have been issued. “We will publish all the information on our departmental activities, but for the moment we are working with this information,” said Olga Chemodanova, representative of the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for security.
In the case of Viasna, who helped document more than 500 cases of torture by Lukashenko troops against anti-dictatorship demonstrators, searches were carried out in all of the entity’s regional centers, phones were confiscated and a deputy director was arrested.
Valentin Stefanovich, vice-president of the organization, told Russian media that the functioning of the dictatorship on Tuesday is similar to what happened in 2010, when there were also demonstrations for democracy in Belarus. The country’s law does not allow protests not authorized by the regime, and the dictatorship considers any activity supporting those involved in protests as a crime.
“We were not human rights activists or journalists who took people to the streets. We only work with the results of what happened in the country, ”he said. “An international reaction is needed now,” said Franak Viakorka, senior consultant to one of the main leaders of the opposition to the dictatorship, Svetlana Tikhanovskaia. He says the media and human rights activists have become the number one target of Lukashenko’s crackdown.
Tikhanovskaia was forced to leave the country the day after the elections and, from Lithuania, is coordinating a campaign to end the crackdown on peaceful protests and for new elections in Belarus. The former presidential candidate and opposition leaders formed a council to try to open a dialogue with the dictatorship, but most of its leaders were either arrested or had to leave the country.
To circumvent the regime’s threats, Belarusians who oppose Lukashenko have resorted to “white guerrilla” tactics, with microprotests, cultural actions and private communication groups in the applications.