A special press-conference of “European Belarus” leader Andrei Sannikov, the editor-in-chief of charter97.org website Natallya Radzina (Radina) and a journalist of “Narodnaya Volya” Maryna Koktysh was held on March 17 in Minsk.
We remind that yesterday policemen forced entry to charter97.org news office and seized all computers. The editor-in-chief of the news website Natalya Radzina was punched. Searches wer also held in the flat of “European Belarus” leader Andrei Sannikov and his wife, a well-known journalist Iryna Khalip, in the office of “Narodnaya Volya” newspaper and in the flat of a journalist of the newspaper Maryna Koktysh. During the searches all office equipment and data carriers were seized.
“What is happening has nothing to do with the so-called “hunters’ case”. It is obvious now. The hunt has been started, if we are speaking about “hunters’ case”, against independent journalism, independent mass media, and the most popular news outlets, charter97.org website and “Narodnaya Volya” newspaper, “Belarusian partisan” website.
It is no mere chance that these events took place on March 16. It is the Day of Solidarity. Not only searches and attacks have taken place, but the trial over political prisoners Mikalai Autukhovich, rallies of solidarity disbanded, people are arrested. All day long police, KGB, special services simply demonstrated how they are frightened by these days of solidarity. And solidarity is what we need today. Solidarity of Belarusians and solidarity worldwide. We know that it has aroused a reaction in the world, and the reaction is to become stronger. I can say that Alyaksandr Lukashenka should start forgetting about Western loans, as I do not know who would lobby his interests now, finance the dictatorship which is demonstrating its real face more and more clearly,” stated the leader of “European Belarus” civil campaign.
As said by the politician, now the world is also waiting for the reaction of Belarusians to the events taking place in their county.
“Days of solidarity are to become actions of solidarity. And the nearest occasion is our holiday, Freedom Day March 25. We know that organizers have applied for holding a rally, leaflets have appeared, organizational work is done. Nobody should intimidate us, and we shouldn’t be intimidated. Belarusians are strong people, but we must understand that not attacks against journalists, against the free press, some politicians, but against the entire Belarusian nation are taking place now. Belarusians should make their statement, demonstrate their reaction to the total lawlessness. The changes are close. I am sure about that, I believe in that. And what is going on now demonstrates that Lukashenka’s regime has no answers to really tough challenges of the time, has no answers to the crisis; no reforming of the economic system is taking place, life standards are worsening, and dictatorship simply does not want to hear the truth we are telling Belarusians and the world,” “European Belarus” leader said.
Andrei Sannikov noted that repressions will continue: yesterday late in the night policemen tried to burst in the premises of Aleh Bebenin, Charter’97 press-secretary, and to a coordinator of “European Belarus” Zmitser Bandarenka. It is not excluded that these attempts may continue.
“But again, it depends on how we would bear it and on how we would react,” Sannikov is convinced.
During the press-conference, Natalya Radzina, charter97.org editor, expressed gratitude to Belarusian and foreign journalists, human rights organizations for their solidarity and support during yesterday’s raid to the news office. According to the journalist, the attack of policemen against her and her workers, as well as seizure of al computers, shows that the regime had decided not to wait for July 1, when the hideous Lukashenka’s decree on censorship on Internet in Belarus is to come to force.
“The fear of the authorities is obvious. On March 14 we publish Andrei Sannikov’s interview, who had stated his intention to run for presidency, on March 16 searches and seizure of equipment is carried out in our news office. The regime is in such a fear that they cannot wait, they need to squeeze, strangle everything free which is still left. Judging by the course of events, a unit of measure of freedom of speech in Belarus could be called 1 chuj, or 1 korzh. Ivan Korzh is KGB man who had been allegedly libeled by journalists, and Alyaksandr Chuj is an investigator of the police department of Leninski district, who with his guys zealously burst into the news office of Charter’97 website. But I want to assure you that you won’t be able to suppress us. Yes, it is even more difficult for us to work, but we will perform our professional and human duty – to day the truth,” Radzina said.
We remind that yesterday during the asttempt to force entry to the editorial office of the website, policemen in mufti punched the journalist’s face. Natalya Radzina has a hematoma of the eye area, and today she is set to complain to the prosecutor’s office against such actions of policemen.
During the press-conference a journalist of “Narodnaya Volya” newspaper Martyna Koktysh, whose flat and the editorial office had been searched too, informed that she read in the documents shown by policemen that a criminal case related to defamation of Homel regional KGB head Ivan Korzh, a formal ground for searches, was initiated on December 31, 2009. The search warrant was written by the head of Homel Interior Affairs Department on February 23, 2010, and the paper that a search should be carried out in the flat of the journalist arrived from Homel to Minsk on March 4. The search was held on March 16. Thus, the warrants for searches had been signed before and were waiting for their time.
Answering questions of journalists what a reaction of the European Union to the events in Belarus should be, Andrei Sannikov stated:
”The reaction of the EU should be unambiguous – they must admit defeat of their inapt policy of “reforming” the dictator, admit that democratization is not taking place on its own. They should understand that there are no democratic institutions, independent press, independent courts in Belarus. And the reaction should be adequate, they should stop playing these games. These games lead to destroying of the nation, to destroying of the independent state”.