In spite of threats made against the population, on August 9th Belarusians came out in large numbers to vote for the presidential elections and express their dissatisfaction with the regime. Electoral fraud was reported in many polling stations by local journalists and citizen monitors. Hundreds of voters were denied their rights when polling stations closed in spite of lines of citizens waiting to vote.
Violence against peaceful protesters
Citizen monitors sampling exit poll votes registered a victory for Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya, the contender to the presidency. However, incumbent president Loekashenka claimed victory with 80% of the vote, a number even supporters of the president found hard to believe, foreign press reports. Sunday evening, when people demanded fair count of the vote and then went into the street to peacefully protest, police has used stun grenades, water cannons, and blank ammunition (in the variety of cities across all countries). In Minsk, a prisoner transport vehicle rammed the crowd with people severely injured. Euroradio, an independent broadcaster, witnessed a photographer of Associated Press severely beaten and detained.
Many more journalists were detained all over the country - some were released yesterday, but the whereabouts of others is unknown. Internet connections in Belarus continue to be blocked and hampered across the country. The SOS lines of human rights defender center Spring96 were blocked - only their landline works. Free Press Unlimited expresses its solidarity with the brave reporters who covered the elections and peaceful protests in Belarus.
Further bloodshed can be expected during this week, if the international community fails to react promptly and decisively.
Photo by: Euroradio.FM
27 August 2020: Tune in for this special Free Press Unlimited podcast about the recent developments in Belarus, and the impact it has on press freedom and independent journalism. Ruth Kronenburg, director of Free Press Unlimited, speaks about this with Maryia Sadouskaya Komlach. She has been a journalist in Belarus for many years, and now works for Free Press Unlimited as a programme coordinator for the region Eurasia.