The latest search expands what rights activists say is the suppression of opponents of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.
For the third day in a row, Belarusian security officials raided the offices and residences of independent journalists and human rights activists, expanding what human rights activists call new repression of opponents of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.
The Polish-based Nexta Live channel said that ABC Radio Liberty’s office in the capital Minsk was among the people searched on Friday. The Belarusian human rights organization Viasna-96 reported that two free radio reporters were detained.
According to Viasna-96, the police also went to the homes of a reporter from the Polish TV channel Belsat and several local reporters.
Since the beginning of the protests against the presidential election in August 2020, the authorities have shut down some non-state media and human rights organizations, and the opposition said the election was rigged. After the violent suppression, the protests subsided during the Belarusian winter. Thousands of protesters were detained, several people were killed, and hundreds were sentenced to long-term imprisonment for the riots.
Lukashenko denied election fraud. According to official results, he won the sixth term in last year’s poll with 80% of the votes since he took office in 1994.
On Wednesday and Thursday, security officials raided about 20 human rights, charity, media, and expert institutions and detained more than 15 people, including the person in charge of Viasna-96.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Western politician, international human rights activist and Belarusian protest leader based in Lithuania, condemned the search and detention.
Michelle Bachelet, the head of UN human rights affairs, lashed out at the escalating crackdown on Thursday.
“I am deeply shocked by the latest developments in Belarus,” she said in a statement.
“Such suppression is totally unacceptable,” said Bachelet, who accused the Belarusian authorities of “blatantly ignoring… their obligations under international human rights law.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated that the UK condemned Belarus for “escalation of repression”, and the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Belarus in recent months.