Belarus Undeserving of IMF Aid without Reform
Freedom House urges the International Monetary Fund to reject loans to the Belarus regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka unless his government institutes major democratic reforms. These changes include allowing the political opposition to operate freely, press freedom, and freedom of association for independent organizations and trade unions. Belarus is among a number of countries—from Iceland to Pakistan—that are seeking relief from the IMF amid the global financial crisis.
"No other country approaching the IMF has a record of broad scale repression that equals that of Belarus," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "Providing Belarus with a loan now would effectively reward President Lukashenka for conducting a sham election, marginalizing the opposition, and crushing independent media. The one remaining dictatorship in Europe should not receive the benefit of international financial aid."
Belarus consistently ranks near the bottom of Freedom House's rankings for political rights and civil liberties. The September parliamentary election—in which no seat went to an opposition candidate—is a recent and vivid example of the authoritarian nature of the Lukashenka regime. Election monitors representing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe sharply criticized the election and cited "several cases of deliberate falsification of results."
Authorities routinely restrict and harass opposition parties, leaving street demonstrations as the key method for them to publicize their message, and then arrest opposition leaders for participating in "illegal" protests. Yesterday, the last of 10 opposition protesters from the civil campaign "European Belarus" was arrested for taking part in a rally of market vendors in January. In other cases, authorities have brutally dispersed crowds, as happened last December when demonstrators protested Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Minsk.
Independent media face widespread intimidation and a host of restrictive media laws and licensing rules. Libel in the country is both a civil and a criminal offense and arbitrary closure of independent media outlets is common.
Belarus is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.
For more information on Belarus, visit:
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Belarus since 1990.
Freedom House makes a difference.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.