Protest-rocked Belarus cancels all foreign media credentials

October 2, 2020 GMT

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarus, rocked by weeks of protests against its authoritarian president and Western condemnation over a crackdown on dissent, on Friday rescinded the accreditation of all journalists working for foreign news outlets and said they must apply for new credentials in a process that could take a week or more.

The action was the latest by Belarusian authorities against journalists and news media amid the wave of large protests that have occurred almost daily since the country’s authoritarian president won a sixth term in a disputed Aug. 9 election.

“In the current situation, we are forced to exercise our sovereign right and apply the necessary protective measures, including in the form of new provisions of the regulations,” the Belarus Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the move.

The ministry said that journalists working for foreign media can apply for new credentials beginning Monday; temporary accreditation applications will be considered within five days, and permanent accreditation within 30 days.

The largest protests against President Alexander Lukashenko have taken place on Sundays.

Earlier this week, authorities in Belarus suspended for three months the credentials of the popular independent news website, which has covered the protests extensively.

Some credentialed foreign journalists were deported in August, including two from The Associated Press, and the credentials of two Belarusian nationals working for AP were revoked.

The protests, which have attracted up to 200,000 people in the capital Minsk and sizeable crowds in other cities, began Aug. 9 after an election that officials said gave Lukashenko 80% of the vote. Opponents and some poll workers have said the results were manipulated.

Since presidential campaigning started in Belarus this year, 207 journalists have been detained, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists. Eleven reporters are currently behind bars, sentenced to three to 15 days in jail on charges of participating in unauthorized protests.

“The authorities want to prevent journalists within the country and abroad to report on the protests which have not abated for two months,” Boris Goretsky, vice president of the journalists’ association, said.


Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.