Belarus expands crackdown on independent journalists

The Belarusian Justice Ministry has started the process to terminate the activities of the Association of Belarusian Journalists (BAZ). The ministry's press service reports that the ministry has already filed a motion with the court to shut down all operations at BAZ.

The ministry announced that the request to take down the organisation was sent to the Supreme Court after it was deemed that BAZ had failed “to take action to remove cases that violated the law despite several written warnings”.

The Ministry argues that BAZ has failed to provide the necessary documents in a timely manner that concern the formal aspects of the organisation's activity.

BAZ responded that it does not have access to the documents because the organisation's office was sealed after the search by the authorities and the documents remain inside.

"We are physically unable to do so because the day before we received the warning, the organisation's office was broken into, searched and then sealed. We have informed the ministry of this," BAZ Deputy Director Barys Harecki wrote on Facebook.

He assessed that "it is clear that the authorities want to brutally finish off the most active journalistic organisation in the country."

BAZ is a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

Earlier, BAZ reported that its bank accounts had been blocked.

In recent weeks, the Belarusian authorities have conducted dozens of searches in non-state media and social organisations, and some activists and journalists have been detained, including staff from the editorial offices of Nasha Niva, Belsat TV, and Radio Svaboda.

Representatives of the state authorities have argued that the cases are connected to protests that have been organised with the help of "secret financial flows".