Outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) called for an immediate end to violence and repression against Belarusian journalists during a United Nations Security Council meeting.
On Friday (January 22), Estonia initiated an informal high-level virtual meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss media freedom in Belarus.
"In addition to protesters, representatives of free media – journalists, cameramen, bloggers, anyone covering the events on the ground – have been turned into a target for the government's repressions. It is alarming how the Belarusian authorities have persecuted, beaten and arrested representatives of the media," said Reinsalu, who attended the meeting virtually due to contact with a coronavirus carrier.
"There are voices who say that all we have heard today are unfounded claims. The evidence, however, is overwhelming. An independent report made under the OSCE Moscow Mechanism has provided evidence of the falsification of elections and the widespread violation of the human rights of peaceful protesters. Belarus is the most dangerous country for journalists in Europe," Reinsalu said. "UN Security Council members must also be made aware of the lack of media freedom, human rights and democratic values in Belarus."
The foreign minister proposed setting up an independent international mechanism for investigating crimes committed against peaceful protesters in Belarus.
Estonia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson said: "Estonia considers upholding human rights an integral part of ensuring international peace and security. When applying for elected membership of the Security Council, we promised to advocate for our core values, including human rights and human dignity and keep the public focused on grave violations. This is something we are indeed doing. Independent and free media is the bedrock of democratic societies. Free press helps draw attention to human rights violations, which can lead to full-blown conflicts, and thus help prevent conflicts."
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya took part in the meeting from Tallinn, where she was on a two-day visit to the capital.
The event was co-organized with UN Security Council members France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as other UN member states Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.
In total, more than 30 representatives of UN member states made statements, including 15 foreign or deputy foreign ministers. The head of the European Union's delegation to the UN also made a statement on behalf of the European Union.
The meeting built on a previous UN Security Council meeting initiated by Estonia and held on September 4 with a focus on human rights in Belarus.
You can rewatch the meeting below.
Reinsalu's full statement can be read here.
Editor: Helen Wright