Belarus raided the offices of several regional media organizations as well as the homes of independent journalists on Friday, the country’s current crackdown on the press’s second day.
Authorities in the ex-Soviet republic, which has been governed by strongman President Alexander Lukashenko for nearly three decades, are waging a months-long crackdown on dissent.
The latest raids came a day after security agents searched the headquarters of at least three regional publications and blocked the country’s oldest journalistic organization, Nasha Niva.
On Friday, the majority of the raids took place in Brest, a western city near the Polish border.
Konstantin Bychek, the chief of the KGB’s investigative branch, told state television that a “large-scale operation” is underway to clear Belarus of “radicals.”
Since Thursday, 32 journalists have been detained, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The editor-in-chief of Nasha Niva, Yegor Martinovich, was beaten and suffered head injuries while being seized in a raid, according to the online journal.
The raids on the outlet were carried out as part of a probe into conduct that grossly breached public order, according to its website.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an exiled opposition leader, denounced the recent raids.
“Our independent journalists suffer violence, torture in prison because they do their work,” she wrote on Twitter Friday.
Journalists who covered last year’s anti-Lukashenko protests have faced increasing pressure in recent months, with several earning lengthy prison sentences.
Tut.by, a popular news website, was blocked in May, and several of its employees were detained on suspicion of tax cheating.
Western countries have imposed a number of sanctions on Lukashenko and his administration in response to the crackdown, but they appear to have had little impact because he retains support from Russia, a vital ally and creditor.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN