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Six RFE/RL Journalists Jailed As Belarus Crackdown Intensifies

RFE/RL Belarus Service journalists (clockwise from from top left): Maksim Lauretsky, Yuliya Kotskaya, Andrey Shauluha, Aleh Hruzdzilovich, Ihar Karney, Andrey Rabchyk
RFE/RL Belarus Service journalists (clockwise from from top left): Maksim Lauretsky, Yuliya Kotskaya, Andrey Shauluha, Aleh Hruzdzilovich, Ihar Karney, Andrey Rabchyk

(WASHINGTON -- November 20, 2020) Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) condemns the most recent escalation of the Belarus government’s intensifying suppression of media freedom, which finds six contributors to Radio Svaboda, the Belarus Service of RFE/RL jailed for alleged administrative violations of between 8 and 15 days each.

Said RFE/RL Acting President Daisy Sindelar, “The Belarusian government is detaining our journalists and numerous other reporters in Belarus in an attempt to punish them for carrying out their responsibilities as journalists. These despicable tactics will not stop us from pursuing every avenue to provide the Belarusian people the critical news they need about ongoing human rights violations in the country.”

During the past five months of a violent and contentious election season in Europe's last autocratic stronghold, RFE/RL journalists in Belarus have faced the most intense harassment since they first began working inside the country 30 years ago. The most recent wave of journalist detentions involve RFE/RL contributors Andrey Rabchyk, Andrey Shauluha, Ihar Karney, Maksim Lauretsky, and Yuliya Kotskaya.

  • Three -- Rabchyk, Shauluha, and Kotskaya -- were arrested on allegations of participating in unsanctioned rally that took place on November 15; in fact, they were found by Belarusian law enforcement in a hotel room preparing to cover a protest march near Minsk’s Pushkinskaya metro station.
  • During the course of his reporting on November 15, Karney was also seized by police, along with more than 1,200 other people across Belarus.
  • Lauretsky, was arrested by police as he emerged from a subway station on November 16 to report on that day’s “pensioners’ march”, before he even saw any of the rally participants.

These detentions come just days after a Belarusian court on November 12 sentenced veteran RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich to 15 days in jail, finding him guilty of “participating” in an October 25 street protest -- an event which Hruzdzilovich covered as a reporter on assignment.

RFE/RL journalists have been forced to work without accreditation since October 2, when the Belarusian Foreign Ministry canceled the accreditations of all journalists working for foreign media organizations in the country. To date, no Belarusian nationals working for Western media outlets have been accredited under the new procedures.

RFE/RL social media consultant Ihar Losik also remains behind bars, and will mark his 150th day in pre-trial confinement in Minsk on November 23. Losik, a prominent blogger, was arrested on June 25 and accused by authorities of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the vote. According to his wife, Daria, Losik is being held in “deliberately inhuman conditions" and has not been allowed to see his wife, the couple’s baby daughter, or his parents since his detention.

About RFE/RL's Belarus Service
Despite the government's information blockade, RFE/RL's Belarus Service continues to provide independent news and analysis of the fast-moving events to Belarusian audiences in their own language, relying on social media platforms such as Telegram, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as mirror sites and an updated news app to circumvent pervasive Internet blockages and access disruptions.