The Supreme Court of Belarus has upheld an official initiative to dissolve the Belarusian Journalists Association (BAZS), which decided the fate of the 1,300-member legal protection organization for journalists and the press.
The Belarusian Ministry of Justice began a review of the activities of the Association of Journalists on June 9, which BAZS learned about only on June 21, when the ministry requested thousands of documents related to the organization’s work.
Authorities searched BAZS premises on July 14, his office was closed, and his accounts were closed. The next day, the organization received a warning letter from the Department of Justice, arguing that the two district offices of BAZS were operating without registered addresses. That was enough for the ministry to suggest dissolving the organization because it claims that BAZS did not address the alleged irregularities within a week.
The court threw the counter-arguments of the Journalists’ Syndicate off the table, saying they were not relevant, with the organization’s legal representative not understanding the applicable laws.
Andrei Paztunik, president of the Syndicate of Journalists, stated that the association will continue its work by all legal means “regardless of the decision of the courts and administrative bodies.”
The Belarusian Journalists Association was founded in 1995, a year after Alexander Lukashenko, who had been fighting corruption for 27 years, came to power. According to BAZS There are at least thirty journalists in prison, There are about fifty criminal police cases pending against media professionals. In the past year since the Minsk regime brutally suppressed protests over the presidential elections, which were widely considered rigged last August, the authorities have launched about 140 raids on journalists.