The Belarussian government, which has come under increasing pressure from the West to crack down on political opponents and the media, has sought to justify its crackdown on dissent by adopting another “counter-revolutionary law”.
There is talk of a law signed by the incumbent President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, which allows law enforcers to disperse protesters using military and special equipment.
At the same time, the Lukashenko regime is trying to shut down or bring under control independent publications still operating in the country.
On May 18, it became known that the largest portal in Belarus, TUT.BY, was blocked, and its employees were arrested in connection with the “particularly large amount of tax evasion” case.
“Legal alibi” for the defenders of the regime
Observers say the Lukashenko regime is taking steps to further intimidate the public, intimidate people and raise prices for protests. The new law is the deadly sword that must be placed on the head of every disgruntled person in Belarus.
According to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE / RL) staffer Siarhei Shupa, the Lukashenko regime passed a law banning Nazi propaganda a few weeks ago in a bid to strengthen its fight against the opposition, banning the use of the main symbol of the 1918 state – white and red flags.
And severe criminal punishment for “mass unrest” could threaten any opponent unacceptable to the regime.
Another “anti-revolutionary legislative” initiative, signed by Alexander Lukashenko, has given law enforcement – or rather regime law enforcement – the right to disperse protesters using military and special equipment.
“It simply came to our notice then [ლუკაშენკა] It gives them a certain legal alibi to further engage law enforcement in its method of fighting opponents. If before these law enforcers still had some fears, Lukashenko is not eternal and tomorrow we may answer, we used the power correctly, if not, now they think it is given in Carte Blanc and they can legally do whatever they want. And not just now, but after Lukashenko. In any court they will justify themselves, we did not commit a crime because the law gave us the right to do so. Recall the Nuremberg Trials, when criminals came out and said, “I was a law-abiding citizen of my Reich and I only obey the law.”, – says Siarhei Shupa, an employee of the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty.
According to the document, law enforcement officers are not liable for the damage that people will receive in the event of arrest using such equipment or weapons if, as the law states, the arrest “will be made in accordance with the requirements of the legislation.”
In addition, from now on, police officers in Belarus have the right not to allow video and photos to be taken while they are on duty.
Cleaning the “information field”
In doing so, the Lukashenko regime is making sure that there is no independent media outlet in the country that disseminates information about violence.
On May 18, in Belarus, law enforcement officers searched the homes of the largest mobile phone company, TUT.BY, as well as the editorial office. Several editors – including editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova – were approached at their residence by staff from the Financial Investigation Department. A search was also conducted at the regional offices of the publication.
After that, as TUT.BY reports, several journalists and photographers from different publications came to the office and came to the office.
“This means that the information space is being completely cleaned. Not to mention that Radio Liberty’s website has been blocked since the day of the presidential election and exists only on certain “mirror sites” (Radio Liberty’s Belarusian service programs can be found on other sites – ed.). Other independent sites are also blocked. Today, not only was there an attempt to block, but all the employees of Lama, the largest independent portal in Belarus – TUT.BY. – were physically arrested. At the same time, a criminal case was launched under the article of concealment of large amounts of taxes and abuse of power, which provides for severe punishment. “There is a complete legal default in Belarus today and the government interprets any law as it wishes.”, – tells us Siarhei Shupa.
The Belarusian Ministry of Finance later said that TUT.BY had been blocked “in a number of publications for violating the law on information prohibited by law and the mass media.”
Independent portal TUT.BY is one of the most popular Internet resources in Belarus. It is visited by about 20 million users every month, 70% of whom are Belarusian citizens between the ages of 25 and 44. The portal causes great dissatisfaction in the Belarusian government, which is trying to either close this Internet resource or turn it into a supporter of Lukashenko.
TUT.BY was stripped of its media status in December last year, and its journalist Ekaterina Borisevich was sentenced to six months in prison in March for writing an article about Roman Bondarenko, whose death version was opposed by the government. Ekaterina Borisyevich found that no alcohol was found in the blood of Roman Bondarenko from Minsk, which was claimed by the authorities.
Roman Bondarenko, a resident of Minsk, was killed on November 12 by law enforcement against the use of excessive force against protesters. He was one of the victims of violence across Belarus and the use of excessive force by law enforcement after the disputed presidential election in Belarus on 9 August.
- The human rights center Viasna has documented that there are more than 1,000 victims of torture in the country.
- Many trials in politically motivated criminal cases are closed and do not involve journalists, human rights defenders, or members of the public.
- According to Viasna, 246 people are currently considered political prisoners in Belarus.