Belarus’ leading organization of independent journalists received UNESCO press freedom award
LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarus’ main organization of independent journalists has received a UNESCO prize for press freedom.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists has been named the winner of the 2022 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize – a $25,000 prize for “outstanding contributions to the defense or promotion of press freedom, especially in the face of danger,” UNESCO announced on Wednesday.
“For twenty-five years, the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Prize has drawn the world’s attention to the bravery of journalists around the world who sacrifice so much in the search for truth and accountability. Once again, their example inspires us and reminds us of the importance of guaranteeing the right of journalists around the world to report freely and safely,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, in the press release. .
BAJ, a nongovernmental association of journalists, has operated in Belarus since 1995. The country’s Supreme Court ordered its liquidation last August amid the government’s unprecedented crackdown on dissent that engulfed the former Soviet nation after months of mass protests.
Protests erupted in August 2020 after authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in a presidential election widely seen as rigged. Thousands of protesters have been arrested and authorities have cracked down hard on human rights groups and independent media, shutting down news outlets and jailing journalists.
BAJ’s liquidation order follows the jailing of around 30 journalists, raids of newspaper offices, the blocking of major independent media websites and the closure of the writers’ organization PEN Center run by Nobel Prize laureate in literature Svetlana Alexieveich.
BAJ leader Andrei Bastunets told The Associated Press at the time that the organization would “continue to do its job regardless of the decision of the courts, which clumsily respect the political order of the authorities.” He, like many other Belarusian journalists, left the country.
The awards ceremony will take place on May 2 in Punta del Este, Uruguay during the World Press Freedom Day World Conference.