PEN International © 2017
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Statement

Belarus: Writers, artists and cultural workers targeted in repression against the democracy movement

Friday 6 November 2020 - 1:28pm

Protests on 16 August 2020 in Minsk. Picture by Максим Шикунец under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

PEN International is shocked by the ongoing suppression of writers and artists in Belarus who have taken part in demonstrations calling for the fundamental rights of all Belarus citizens in the months following the contested Presidential election in August. It is calling for the release of all those who have been imprisoned for their non-violent actions and for an end to the physical attacks against them.

In August 2020, Presidential elections took place in the Republic of Belarus that were widely condemned inside the country and abroad as neither free nor fair. In the following months, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in largely peaceful protests. Among them are writers, artists, performers, musicians and cultural workers who play a key role in supporting the protests and, through their creativity, highlighting the struggle for fundamental rights in Belarus. For this they have suffered arrests, beatings, destruction of instruments, and loss of jobs among other acts. Some have been forced to leave the country. To read more about attacks on artists and cultural workers, read the Belarus PEN Statement here.

Salil Tripathi, Chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, writes: “Democratic governments are accountable to people and democratic governments are elected by the people. Those elections must be free and fair. Writers, artists, and journalists in Belarus have risen in protest challenging the outcome of the election in August. Instead of addressing their concerns, the government has responded with arrests, threats, and intimidation, in which they have spared no one. Our friends at PEN Belarus are part of the struggle, for which they have been targeted; even Belarus's national treasure, and PEN International honorary vice-president Svetlana Alexievich, have been threatened. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Belarus, just as they have stood in solidarity with persecuted writers around the world, again and again, time after time.

Jennifer Clements, International President, PEN International adds: “Writers and artists in Belarus are at the centre of peaceful resistance against violations in their country, using their writings, artworks, music and theatrical performances to expose the abuses of the Lukashenko regime. For this they are being singled out as targets for attack. Peaceful protest and artistic freedom go hand in hand as rights that must be respected.”

PEN International is shocked by the government onslaught upon writers, artists and the creative sector and demands that this cease with immediate effect. It highlights that cultural workers are a distinct vulnerable group who even in “peacetime” functions under adverse conditions and is on the front line during times of upheaval and crisis. PEN International also calls for all those who have been imprisoned to be freed, that reparation be made to those who have suffered physical and psychological harm, and a return of employment for those who have lost their jobs. PEN International further demands that the fundamental rights are granted to all Belarusians, notably the right to freedom of expression, to peaceful protest and to free and fair elections.

PEN Belarus publishes a weekly newsletter that monitors attacks on arts and cultural workers, as well as reporting on the creative arts activism that challenges the repression. This newsletter Belarusian Culture in Times of Political Crisis can be accessed on the Belarusian PEN website.

Follow PEN Belarus Facebook (in English and Belarusian) and on Twitter.

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt, Europe Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: sara.whyatt@pen-international.org