World Press Freedom Day 2023: Natallia Satsunkevich details dire situation for journalists and ordinary citizens in Belarus

News 03.05.2023

On World Press Freedom Day, Natallia Satsunkevich of 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate organisation Viasna shared the dire conditions for journalists in Belarus, as well as how the repression of the press affects ordinary citizens. From classifying media organisations as extremists to persecuting citizens for reading independent media, Belarus continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in Europe for journalists.

Right Livelihood: Why the world should be concerned about press freedom in Belarus?

Natallia Satsunkevich: Today, 33 journalists and representatives of independent media are imprisoned in Belarus for their media activities. There are also at least 15 media organisations classified as extremist organisations.

RL: How does the repression of the press in Belarus impact ordinary citizens?

NS: Taking part in any activity inside such an organisation could result in criminal persecution with real prison time. Hundreds of materials from independent media are recognised as extremist. So, if you read these materials or, for example, send them to your friends or family, it could be considered an administrative offence.

We have seen thousands of people face repression for reading and spreading information from independent media.

RL: What is the current reality for journalists in Belarus?

NS: For the past 25 years, we have seen the authorities consistently repress journalists in Belarus. Detention can result from things as simple as conducting an online interview. Independent media offices are searched repeatedly, as are the apartments of journalists. We know hundreds of journalists who have faced administrative and criminal cases and prosecution.

Today, I call on you to support these brave Belarusian journalists—those who are in prison and those who continue their work in extremely difficult conditions.

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