LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – Belarus’s best independent journalist organization has received the UNESCO Prize for Freedom of the Press.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists has been named the winner of the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano 2022 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 said on Wednesday.
“For twenty-five years, the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano Prize has been drawing the world’s attention to the courage of journalists around the world who are sacrificing so much in search of truth and responsibility. We are once again inspired by their example and reminded of the importance of ensuring the right of journalists everywhere to report freely and safely, “said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
BAJ, a non-governmental association of journalists, has been operating in Belarus since 1995. Last August, the country’s Supreme Court ordered the liquidation of an unprecedented government crackdown on dissent, which engulfed the former Soviet nation after months of mass protests.
Demonstrations erupted in August 2020 after authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in a presidential election that was widely seen as fake. Thousands of protesters were detained, and authorities severely repressed human rights groups and independent media, shut down news, and imprisoned journalists.
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The BAJ liquidation order was followed by the closure of about 30 journalists, intrusions into newspaper offices, blocking major independent media websites and the closure of the PEN Center’s writers’ organization, led by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexieveich.
BAJ leader Andrej 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 comply with the political order of the authorities.” Like many other Belarusian journalists, he left the country.
The awards ceremony will take place on 2 May in Punta del Este, Uruguay, at the World Press Freedom Day Conference.
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