Charter 97 (Belarusian: Хартыя'97; Russian: Хартия'97) is
a declaration calling for democracy in
Belarus and a pro-human rights
news site taking its inspiration from the declaration. The document
– the title of which deliberately echoes the
Charter 77 20 years earlier – was created on the
anniversary of a referendum held in 1996, and which, in the words of
the organisation of the same name, declares:
"devotion to the principles of independence, freedom and democracy,
respect to the human rights, solidarity with everybody, who stands for
elimination of dictatorial regime and restoration of democracy in
Pavel Sheremet acted as the group's spokesman at
the declaration's public launch.
Charter 97, as a citizens' human rights organisation based on the
principles outlined in this document, is a non-partisan organisation
which has organised protest rallies and has provided a springboard for
other democratic movements in the country. It also maintains a website
of news with a focus on human rights developments. The site's
editor-in-chief, Natalya Radina, received the 2011 International Press
Freedom Award, "an annual recognition of courageous journalism", for
On 3 September 2010, the body of the founder of Charter 97, Aleh
Byabenin, was found in his house near Minsk. According to initial
statements by the Belarusian government, Bebenin committed suicide by
hanging himself. However, friends of Bebenin have rejected this,
stating that there was no indication Bebenin was planning to commit
suicide, and that there were no messages or notes left behind.
In the weeks following the disputed December 2010 presidential
election – in which pro-democracy candidate
Andrei Sannikov lost to
Lukashenko, often called "Europe's last dictator" – a number of
opposition protesters took to the streets, alleging fraud. Radina and
Charter 97 staff posted numerous articles documenting arrests and
injuries to the protesters by state security forces. On 21 December
Charter 97 office was raided by agents of the State Security
Committee of the Republic of
Belarus (known in Russian as the "KGB").
Radina only had time to post "We're all at the KGB" on the site before
being arrested and taken away.
On 30 December 2011,
Charter 97 fell victim to a hacking attack that
deleted archives and posted false news articles to the site; it also
suffered a denial of service attack.
Belarusian democracy movement
Belarus government accused of human rights abuses". BBC News. 11
November 1997. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
^ "CPJ International Press Freedom Awards 2011". Committee to Protect
Journalists. 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
^ Andrew Osborn (20 December 2010). "Alexander Lukashenko: "Europe's
last dictator"". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
^ a b Michael Schwirtz (21 December 2010). "Clashes in
Resilience of Both Sides". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January
^ "Pro-opposition news website attacked, shut down". IFEX. 30 December
2011. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
Charter 97 website
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