Journalists detained in attempt to silence dissent
'This clumsy attempt to silence local and foreign journalists adds to
the Belarusian government's already embarassing record on human rights ',
Amnesty International added.
The Russian embassy in Minsk reportedly intervened to secure the
release of several television reporters working for the Russian television
broadcasters NTV, ORT and RTR. Reporters from ORT and RTR have complained
that expensive camera equipment was damaged when they were detained.
Reporters from the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty and Associated Press
were also among the journalists detained.
The majority of the journalists detained work for Belarus' independent
newspapers. They have been very vocal in their opposition to President
Lukashenka's increasingly unpopular rule and the poor human rights
situation in the country. Representatives from the independent Nasha
Svaboda, Nasha Niva, Kurier and Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta newspapers
were released after several hours.
'Amnesty International has frequently criticised the Belarusian
government for its harassment of independent journalists and periodic
clamp-downs on the free press. On Saturday it showed the world that its
intolerance of independent thought has reached new levels', Amnesty
Between 400 - 500 demonstrators were detained by the police, who were
patrolling the centre of Minsk in large numbers. Amnesty International has
received reports that police officers used significant amounts of force to
detain some protestors. A number of people have complained of being knocked
to the ground, beaten with truncheons, kicked by police officers and
verbally abused. Most of the detainees were reportedly released between two
and three hours later.
'By suppressing the right of Belarusians to peacefully exercise their
right of assembly on Saturday and the right of journalists to report it,
the authorities violated basic human rights'.