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People protest against increased tariffs for communal services in Babruysk, Belarus, 12 March 2017; the placard reads,
People protest against increased tariffs for communal services in Babruysk, Belarus, 12 March 2017; the placard reads, "Beavers (a nickname for residents of Babruysk) are not slaves"

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

This statement was originally published on baj.by on 12 March 2017.

On 12 March 2017, protest actions were planned in three Belarusian regional cities - Babruysk, Orsha and Rahachou. Law enforcement agencies unfolded a large-scale operation to prevent journalists from covering the events.

In Orsha, the police stopped the car of the Belsat journalists. An administrative report was drawn up against cameraman Aliaksandr Barasenka. The team drove to a police department so the officers could obtain a comment from detained activist Pavel Seviarynets. As a result, the police detained Aliaksandr Barasenka and journalist Katsiaryna Bakhvalava during a live stream. Aliaksandr Barasenka was fined 23 basic amounts for his car, which had been parked in a traffic area.

After the protest action, journalist Halina Abakunchyk of Radio Svaboda was detained, as were BelaPAN photographer Andrei Shauliuha and blogger Anastasia Piliuhina. Halina Abakunchyk and Katsiaryna Bakhvalava had administrative reports compiled against them for "disobeying the police's demands". The trial is scheduled for tomorrow, and they were expected to spend the night in a detention facility.

In the Homel region, a number of journalists were detained on their way to Rahachou - Belsat journalists Yauhen Merkis, Siarhei Kavaliou, Volha Chaychyts and Andrei Kozel. The traffic police stopped two cars and began a long inspection of technical documents.

In Vitebsk, journalists Siarhei Rusetski and Uladzimir Luniou were detained by traffic police; they were taken to a police department to ensure the car had not been jacked. They were later released.

In Brest, local blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin was detained; at the moment of writing this report, communication with him had been lost.

In addition, the authorities carried out some searches and checked documents in Orsha to prevent local activists and journalists from joining the action.

The police searched the houses of activist Kanstantsin Antanashkevich and of Artsiom Sizintsau, a journalist for Belarusian Radio Racyja. At the house of the latter, the police were looking for counterfeit paper money.

The chairperson of the city branch of the UCP party, Valiantsina Ihnatsenka, was forced to stay in her house, as plain-clothed persons were on guard knocking on her doors as of 9 am.

A police car was also stationed near the house of Ihar Kazmerchak, editor of the regional website orsha.eu.

Activist Ihar Hryshanau was detained at a gas station and taken to a police department.

Meanwhile, BelaPAN journalist Adarja Hushtyn and photographer Siarhei Hudzilin were detained for "a document check" at the railway station in Orsha. They were set free only at 2 pm, when the protest action was over.

Similarly, Siarzhuk Serabro, editor of the regional website of Vitebsk, was detained. Journalists of tut.by Tatsiana and Ihar Matveyevy had their documents checked. They were set free 10 minutes before 1 pm, the start time for the protest action.

A Narodnaya Volya journalist had her documents checked in the train on her way to Orsha.

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