Updated at 22:06,23-05-2018

Belarus` situation discussed at OSCE meeting in Warsaw

The situation in Belarus was under discussion at an OSCE meeting that began in Warsaw on September 26 to review the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments by participating states.

The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting is organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights every year.

Speaking at the meeting on Monday, Matteo Mecacci, chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly`s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, mentioned the Parliamentary Assembly’s Working Group on Belarus and the fact that its members had been unable to visit Minsk for meetings with representatives of civil society since last December`s post-election protest in Minsk, according to the press office of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

He said that Belarus was in the focus of the OSCE along with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and the United States because of a variety of human rights issues, including press freedom, freedom of assembly, fair elections and the death penalty.

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative on freedom of the media, emphasized the role of what she called courageous journalists in a struggle for freedom of expression and a free and democratic society, reported Belarus’ news site charter97.org.

She named among them Belarusian journalists Natallya Radzina and Iryna Khalip, who were arrested in the wake of the Belarusian authorities’ post-election crackdown on political opponents, according to the news site.

Ms. Mijatovic noted that she had been seeking for a long time to visit Belarus for meetings with journalists under pressure, but the Belarusian authorities would not grant her an entry visa.

Ms. Radzina, editor of the charter97.org site who fled Belarus after being released from the KGB detention center and obtained political asylum in Lithuania in September, also addressed the gathering.

"There has been no freedom of expression in Belarus during the 17 years of dictatorship; there are no independent television channels or radio stations, and almost all independent newspapers have been closed," said Ms. Radzina. "The remaining two national-level newspapers, Narodnaya Volya and Nasha Niva, have to fight for their survival every day as they may be closed at any moment."

Not a single independent journalist can feel safe in Belarus, she said.

Against this backdrop, the role of the Internet as a source of true information has increased, prompting the authorities to take measures in response, she said, noting that access to opposition news sites had recently been shut down at public institutions for good and it was regularly cut off for all users ahead of and during opposition demonstrations and other important political events.

"Until Lukashenka stays in power, neither journalists nor ordinary Belarusian citizens are safe," she stressed.