The Norwegian Helsinki Comittee congratulates the five Belarusian laureates of the 2020 Free Media Awards

The award is annually given to journalists and media outlets in various Eastern European countries, but this year Fritt Ord decided to grant all awards to Belarusian journalists, media outlets and photographers.

– We commend this decision and are proud to congratulate our nominees the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and the media portal TUT.BY with this year’s Free Media Awards, says NHC Secretary General Geir Hønneland. Together with the other three distinguished laureates they have been crucial in providing first-hand, independent information from the protests as they evolved – underlining both their importance in a society striving for democratic values as well as the Belarusian society’s urge for such independent information.  

The staff of BAJ, 2018. Photo: BAJ

Since the fraudulent elections one year ago, Belarus has changed dramatically. Lukashenko’s regime was unable to respond adequately to the large-scale peaceful protests taking place all over the country – and media outlets, journalists and bloggers have become main targets for repression. 

The website BAJ.BY has become the most unique, coordinated and updated source of information in terms of registering persecution of journalists and media-outlets. Currently they report about 29 imprisoned media workers, blocked access to over 100 media websites, and journalists who have been detained 497 times. From these, they were severely beaten and even injured 68 times.   

 TUT.BY media portal is among the numbers in BAJ’s statistics. Access to the website has been closed by the Belarusian authorities since May 2021. 15 TUT.BY journalists are currently under arrest and are declared political prisoners.  Today, the former staff of the website has established a new channel called  Despite the repressions, TUT.BY was able to preserve 63% of all internet users, again demonstrating the willingness of Belarusians to receive independent information in their fight for democratic values and human rights.