On July 15, PEN America, PEN Belarus, and Free Russia Foundation hosted a discussion on the ongoing political crackdowns in Belarus leading up to the country’s August 9, 2020 presidential election. In addition to exploring the recent wide-scale attacks on political opposition and the press, the conversation examined broader trends of suppression of freedom of expression and the public’s right to information in Belarus, along with President Lukashenka’s relationship with the Kremlin.
The live Webex session, which took place on Wednesday, July 15 at 10am ET, included an extensive Q&A session.
On June 19, Belarusian authorities arrested hundreds of opposition supporters who had lined the streets of Minsk to support petitions for opposition leader campaigns in the upcoming election. Many of those arrested were journalists and other members of the media. Among those who remain imprisoned since June 19 is prominent opposition leader Viktar Babaryka—the prime opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election. President Lukashenka has so far ignored requests for Babaryka’s release.
The speakers included Taciana Niadbaj, a poet, translator, and current executive director of PEN Belarus; Franak Viacorka, a Belarusian journalist and media expert; Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation; and Polina Sadovskaya, Eurasia program director at PEN America. The event will be moderated by Michael Weiss, senior editor for The Daily Beast and a frequent national security analyst and contributor for CNN.