January 10th, 2011
Belarus now sees 3-year old son of journalist and opposition leader as dangerous
By Dan Kubiske
First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.
In a move that better fits the great purges of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s, the government of Belarus after arresting most of the candidates who ran against President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko decided that the 3-year-old son of one of those candidates is a possible security threat.
The arrests of the candidates came after a demonstration against alleged election fraud. Among those detained were Andrei Sannikov, a leading opposition presidential candidate, and Irina Khalip, an investigative journalist. Both were dragged from their car and placed in jail.
And just like Stalin — obviously a hero to Lukashenko — the state issued a warning they were considering arresting the 3-year-old son of Sannikov and Khalip.
Lukashenko is seen by many to be the last dictator left in Europe. He has argued that Belarus should reform a union with Russia. Lukashenko went as far as signing a cooperative agreement with Russia and stated openly he would like to see Belarus once again be part of a greater Russia — ala Soviet Union.
He is also pretty much shunned by the rest of Europe. The EU is restoring a ban on issuing visas to Belarus officials — including Lukashenko — because of the crackdown.
Last month, the Belarus government was accused of launching a denial of service attack against the opposition party and media outlets. At the same time the government also launched attacks against media outlets not under its control.
The crackdown on dissidents includes the arrest and detention of dozens of journalists who were covering the demonstrations. Journalism groups around the world have called on the Belarus government to release those journalists.
The arrests of journalists in Belarus are said to be based on the law. Even though the constitution has provisions for freedom of the press, the law says criticism of the president and government is a criminal offense.
But then again, Stalin ran his purges under the umbrella of the Soviet Union’s law as well.
Belarus is ranked 154 of 178 in the Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom. That makes them worse than Russia, Singapore and Venezuela.
And — sorry I couldn’t resist — speaking of Venezuela, just to show that birds of a feather do indeed flock together (or at least have each others back: Venezuela announced it would ensure shipment of crude oil to Belarus even if it has to buy it from other sources. I guess anything to help a fellow national leader who likes repressing the media.