Prominent Belarusian Figures Resign Amidst Protests Against Dictatorship

Posted: Aug 14, 2020 11:30 AM
Prominent Belarusian Figures Resign Amidst Protests Against Dictatorship

Source: (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

Prominent public figures are resigning from office amidst a swell of protests, mass detentions and police brutality in the wake of allegedly falsified election results. Artyom Proskalovich, Deputy Head of the Department of Legislation in Law Enforcement and Military Spehres of the Main State Legal Department, withdrew from his post on Thursday. 

"I no longer consider it possible to be a lawyer in the civil service," Proskalovich said in a resignation statement that he posted on Instagram. 

Journalists working for state-sponsored media organizations have also stepped down, most notably head of the presidential pool of journalist Dmitry Semchenko. He began working for the state-run All-National Television network (ONT) in 2009, hosting the Anti-Fake government propaganda program.

ONT’s chief urged him to stay in solidarity with his coworkers.

“Those who were in the waiting room heard outside the door how they literally shouted at each other,” an observer told Tut, a Belarusian media outlet. “As a result, Markov did not sign the Semchenko statement. Dima went down to the newsroom to see the journalists and said that he was leaving anyway.”

BelTA reporter Pavel Gorbah said state-run media was suffering a “wave of dismissals,” and that he decided to join it on Wednesday. 

The actions of these journalists represent a common attitude among the Belarusians, who have populated the streets to denounce Europe’s last overtly dictatorial head of state. Belarus held elections on August 9. While the people claim they overwhelmingly voted for opposition leader Svetlana Tihanovskaya, exit polls indicated incumbent Alexander Lukashenko garnered over 80 percent of the vote. 

The police have arrested more than 6,700 individuals since the beginning of the outcries four days ago, and at least two have died. Belarusian authorities say an explosive device detonated in the hand of one protester, while the other reportedly died in a hospital after being arrested. Media reports and videos circulating social media show detainees experience inhumane treatment, including beatings, at the hands of Belarusian law enforcement.  

Police apprehensions of protesters in Belarus have not spared members of the media. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, 64 journalists attempting to cover the vents have been arrested, some of whom work for foreign media outlets and have been deported from Belarus.

On Thursday, employees for various state media outlets appealed to the information minister to release their imprisoned colleagues. They argue that the regime is stifling the media’s obligation to provide coverage, not as a political act, but as is mandated by their profession.

“The fact that today many of our colleagues in the state media are quitting is not a fake, not political technology, not a paid PR campaign. This is a call of conscience and the inability to calmly look at the ongoing violence,” the appeal says.

The EU is expected to hold a foreign affairs council on Friday, and Western leaders have voiced support of the people.

"We've watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Radio Free Europe on Wednesday.