The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep disapproval after learning that Belarus police forces detained dozens journalists and bloggers during peaceful protests on 12 March.
Close to 50 media workers, activists and civil society leaders were detained in the span between March 10-12, during mass protests in the towns Orsha, Rahachou, Vitebsk and Brest. The protests were organised after a new tax was adopted and imposed against unemployed citizens. The protests were initially ignored by authorities, but as the number of marchers escalated, so did the inhumane practices of the authorities against them.
While journalists attempted to report from the scene of the protests, police and other state officials used various justifications for hindering their work. Disobedience of police demands, illegal parking, suspicion of car theft were some of the pretexts used by police, but media workers state the only reason was to stop them from disseminating information about the protests.
SEEMO calls on authorities in Belarus to immediately release any remaining activists, journalists and other civil society members from detention, and ask them to respect basic human rights, as well as freedom of speech.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe.