On 14 July 2021, the Directorate “Combating Organised Crime and Corruption” of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior has conducted a nationwide ‘radical cleansing’ operation against independent associations of writers, journalists, cultural workers, and human rights organisations, including EWC Member, the Union of Belarusian Writers, and PEN Belarus. PEN Belarus is about to be closed by the Government on August 9, one year after the rigged elections in Belarus. 

30 July 2021/update 3 August 2021. Since 14 July, over 200 offices and flats of journalists in Belarus have been stormed, as well as the head quarters and private apartments of chairs of cultural associations, human rights organizations, and writers’ unions, such as the EWC member UBW and its President, the poet Barys Piatrovich.  The EWC said in its first statement on July 14:

The EWC condemns these measures of the Belarusian government in the strongest possible terms. We call on the European community not only to make comments of concern, but to act immediately for the people and the democracy movement in Belarus.

On 14 July, the office of EWC Member the Union of Belarusian Writers (UBW), was raided, equip­ment and documents confiscated. The Chair of the independent Union of Belarusian Writers, Barys Piatrovich, is banned from leaving the country and lives now under restriction in his also raided home. His phone has been confiscated, and he was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This “information ban” indicates that he would face a penalty if he spoke publicly about the indiscriminate proceedings against the Writers’ Union. (…) On Tuesday, 13 July, the dictator Alexander Lukashenko had declared that 1500 organisations and journalists would be “financed from other countries” and were “causing unrest and promoting terror instead of democracy” in Belarus.

The situation has worsened since then: The Union of Belarusian Writers as well as the PEN Belarus, which are critical of the government, are awaiting legal action from the ministry of justice and is threatened with the forced dissolution of the association on August 9.

The PEN Belarus is called to the Court by the Government on 9 of August, the bank account is already shut down. EWC President Nina George: “Soon it will be the anniversary of the rigged elections, and Europe is still making Sunday speeches. Our colleagues are on the run, and Belarus is experiencing a drying-up of culture, intellectuals, scienctists, who are leaving their beloved country, terrified. If international politics continues to hold back so helplessly, it’s up to the book community to carry on the voices of Belarus: Publish Belarusian authors. Demand exile residences in your cities. Let them have their say in the free media. Award scholarships. A democracy is not destroyed overnight. Those who now keep quiet about Belarus are belittling the freedom of the word.”

Simplified visas as well as monetary support for those human rights organisations in the neighbouring countries that are currently coping with the flood of fleeing cultural workers, authors and scientists should be on the agenda of political decision-makers without delay.

Overview on selected reports and reactions:

16 July 2021 Publishing Perspectives (International)

European Writers Council and PEN America Slam Belarus Raids

The European Writers Council and a consortium of agencies working with PEN America blast the Lukashenko regime for its ‘targeted and concerted attack’ on cultural and rights organizations in Belarus. To the article

16 July 2021 Börsenblatt des Deutschen Buchhandels (Germany)

Wave of repression against writers’ associations

The European Writers Council condemns the Lukashenko regime’s attacks on its member, the Union of Belarusian Writers, as well as on the writers’ organisation PEN Belarus in Minsk. To the article

16 July 2021 Nyheter (Norway)

Writers’ organizations raided

Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus has recently raided the premises of several Belarusian writers’ organizations. The leader of the writers’ organization The Union of Belarusian Writers, Barys Piatrovich, has had his freedom of movement restricted, among other things through a refusal to travel abroad. The European Writers’ Council (EWC) condemns the incidents. The leader of the Norwegian Writers’ Union, Eystein Hanssen, who also sits on the board of the EWC, is deeply concerned about the serious development in Belarus. The Writers’ Association writes in a press release.
“The Writers’ Union condemns dictator Lukashenko’s repression of our fellow writers, journalists and human rights defenders in Belarus. He tries with violence and restrictions to gag all forms of free thought and criticism in Belarus. The authorities in other European countries must react sharply to how the authorities in Belarus persecute critics and the opposition in the country, says the Chair of the Authors’ Association, Eystein Hanssen, about the serious development in Belarus. Hanssen also sits on the board of EWC, the European Writers’ Council.” To the article   To the Solidarity Address

16 July 2021 Actualitté (France)

Belarus: Police raid authors’ associations’ offices

The already difficult situation of freedom of expression is becoming dramatic in Belarus: several authors’ associations, including the Belarusian Writers’ Union and the local branch of PEN, were raided on 14 July. Documents and materials were seized and some members were banned from leaving the country. To the article

July 20 2021, Strade (Italy)

SOLIDARITY WITH BELARUSIAN AUTHORS

Strade expresses its full solidarity with Belarusian writers for the serious attacks on freedom of expression and the escalation of violence carried out by the Lukašėnka government and the security forces. On 14 July, the offices of the Union of Belarusian Writers (UBW) and PEN Belarus, together with some 20 non-governmental organisations, were violently attacked by the security forces.  To the Solidarity Address

July 21 2021 CEATL – European Federation of Literary Translators Association
July 22 2021 Publishing Perspectives (International)

Lukashenko Regime To Close PEN Belarus in Minsk

“In the last 11 days, 63 offices and flats of journalists have been stormed, as well as 51 offices and private apartments of chairs of cultural associations, human rights organizations, and writers’ unions, such as the EWC member UBW and its president, the poet Barys Piatrovich. Soon it will be the anniversary of the rigged elections, and Europe is still making Sunday speeches. Our colleagues are on the run, and Belarus is experiencing a drying-up of culture, intellectuals, scienctists, who are leaving their beloved country, terrified. If international politics continues to hold back so helplessly, it’s up to the book community to carry on the voices of Belarus. Publish Belarusian authors. Demand exile residences in your cities. Let them have their say in the free media. Award scholarships. A democracy is not destroyed overnight. Those who now keep quiet about Belarus are belittling the freedom of the word.”  To the article

23 July 2021 The Society of Authors (UK)

SoA condemns raid on Union of Belarusian Writers #StandWithBelarus

We strongly condemn the raid this month on the offices of our sister union in Belarus. The Union of Belarusian Writers’ (UBW) offices in Minsk was raided by government officials on 14 July.

According to reports from the European Writers’ Council, the Combating Organised Crime and Corruption Directorate of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior last week conducted what it calls a nationwide ‘radical cleansing’ operation against independent groups of writers, journalists, cultural workers, and human rights organisations, including the UBW and PEN Belarus.

We have written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP to call on the UK Government to apply further diplomatic pressure on Belarus to end violence and repression across the country.   To the Open Letter

23 July 2021, German Writers Union VS together with PEN Germany

Freedom of speech, of opinion and of criticism are not at the disposal of politics, but its foundation.

The VS and the German PEN Centre, together with the European umbrella organisation for writers, the European Writers’ Council (EWC), firmly stand by the UBW and PEN Belarus and its members and representatives. Both organisations strongly condemn the actions of the Belarusian government and call on Germany and the EU to take steps to protect Belarusian writers and journalists and to proceed with sanctions against the dictatorial Lukashenko government.  To the press release

23 July 2021, Delo (Slovenia)

The Lukashenko regime will close the Belarusian Pen Center

From January to June, 621 violations of the rights of the cultural sector were listed in the Belarusian Pen Center, 39 of whom are political prisoners.
Nina George, President of the European Writers ‘Council, said in a statement supporting the persecuted writers’ colleagues that the Belarusian KGB had broken into and searched 63 offices and apartments of journalists and 51 offices and apartments of cultural leaders in the last eleven days. human rights organizations, opposition groups and writers ’associations, several activists were arrested. To the article

23 July 2021, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)

“It will hurt”

For weeks now, literature and journalism in Belarus have been dealt a heavy, if unsurprising, blow. What dictatorship is interested in the free word? (…) The chairman of the independent Union of Belarusian Writers, Barys Piatrovich, is not allowed to leave the country, is banned from communicating and lives under house arrest. To the article

28 July 2021 Aftenposten (Norway)

Belarus tightens: It is a battle of life and death

Search of offices and homes. Extensive arrests. Belarusian authorities attack civil society. The EWC demands that European politicians take responsibility. –
“After talking to writers on the run, I see that the most important thing now is to give visas to those who need it. Let them study and work in the EU and EEA. And let them share their experiences and opinions in the free press. Lukashenko would hate that, says Nina George, EWC President. 
To the article

 

Background and history