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Lukashenko closes the Association of Journalists in Belarus

The order to close the Belarusian Association of Journalists was issued by the Supreme Court.

After the presidential election in Belarus a year ago, mass protests erupted against the announcement of President Alexander Lukashenko as the winner. According to the opposition, Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has won by fraud. Authorities have since imprisoned about 30 journalists, searched newspaper editorial offices, blocked the websites of major independent media outlets and shut down the PEN Center, a Nobel Prize-winning literary organization headed by Svetlana Aleksievich.

BAJ was closed with the argument that two of its six branches had terminated their leases. The organization denied the accusation, but was unable to prove its case with documents, as its office was sealed last month after searches and seizures of equipment.

“We will continue to do our job regardless of the decisions of the courts, which are clumsily fulfilling the political order of the authorities,” BAJ leader Andrei Bastunets told the Associated Press. He added that “for more than a quarter of a century, the organization’s mission has been to expand the space for free speech, but now the darkest times have come in Belarus.”

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