UPDATE: On January 25, Ihar Losik ended ended the hunger strike he began almost six weeks ago to protest charges that he helped organize riots over a disputed presidential election. Losik cited the "unbelievable wave of solidarity" among his Belarusian compatriots in deciding to end the protest. Losik remains in pre-trial detention, however, where he has been since June 25, 2020.
WASHINGTON - The health of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Belarus Service social media consultant Ihar Losik is starting to fail as he enters the sixth week of a hunger strike to protest his half-year of pre-trial detention and new charges by Belarusian authorities that could result on conviction in an eight-year prison sentence.
According to a report by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, known locally as Radio Svaboda, Losik’s lawyer Dzmitry Lepretar said his client, whom he visited today in Belarus’ Zhodzina prison, was beginning to feel weak and was having problems maintaining a steady blood pressure.
RFE/RL President Ted Lipien expressed deep concern about Losik’s deteriorating health, and repeated calls by RFE/RL executives for his immediate release. “Ihar Losik has done nothing to deserve this fate, other than seek to be a responsible journalist and chronicler of events in Belarus. Losik should never have been arrested and separated from his family. Belarusian authorities need to realize that it may soon be too late to right this terrible injustice.”
Losik was detained on June 25, 2020, following a search of his apartment in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. A prominent blogger, Losik has been accused by authorities of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the controversial August 9 presidential election in Belarus that longtime incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims to have won in a landslide amid allegations of widespread fraud. Since then, Belarus has witnessed nearly daily demonstrations whose size and scope are unparalleled in the country's post-Soviet history. This past weekend, protests on Losik’s behalf took place in cities across Belarus, as well as in Barcelona, Spain and Krakow, Poland, and on Monday the International Ice Hockey Federation moved the 2021 World Championship out of Belarus, citing safety and security concerns.
In addition to Losik, numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations. On October 2, 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.
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.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 41 million people in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 6.5 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2020. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.