BELARUS: Reports Suggest Ihar Losik’s Condition in Belarusian Prison is Deteriorating
On March 20, RFE/RL learned that imprisoned Belarus Service journalist Ihar Losik suffered injuries during an incident. A Belarusian human rights group characterized the incident as an “attempted suicide,” while sources close to the prison told RFE/RL it may have been an act of protest.
Prison officials have not publicly commented on the incident. Ihar’s condition and whereabouts are unknown as his family has not been permitted to communicate with him for weeks. Ihar’s lawyer was detained on March 21.
In the wake of reports suggesting a serious deterioration in Ihar’s condition, RFE/RL is grateful to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and German Bundestag member Robin Wagener for speaking out against Ihar’s unjust imprisonment. We join them in calling on the Belarusian authorities to release Ihar immediately and unconditionally.
Ihar Losik was detained in June 2020, in advance of Belarus’ fraudulent election later that summer. He was convicted on politically motivated charges in a closed-door trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Since his arrest, Ihar has faced severe physical and psychological pressures, including two debilitating hunger strikes.
In October 2022, Belarusian authorities detained Ihar’s wife Darya Losik. She was convicted of charges stemming from her advocacy for her husband’s freedom and sentenced to two years in prison. The Supreme Court of Belarus rejected her appeal on March 21.
A second Belarus Service journalist, Andrey Kuznechyk, has been unfairly imprisoned since 2021.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
KYRGYZSTAN: Courts Reject RFE/RL’s Legal Challenges Against Government Censorship
Bishkek courts have rejected all three of RFE/RL’s legal challenges against government censorship targeting its Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk. RFE/RL is appealing these judgements.
Since October 2022, Kyrgyz authorities have retaliated against RFE/RL for refusing to remove reporting about clashes at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, including by blocking Azattyk websites and freezing the Service’s bank account.
In January, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy asked a court to halt Azattyk’s operations. The request was condemned widely by international watchdogs. The last hearing on the Ministry’s application on March 24 concluded with the judge granting the government’s request to consult a linguistic commission, which will be appointed by the Ministry of Justice. Hearings will resume once the commission determines whether RFE/RL’s report could be characterized as “war propaganda.”
As courts fail to uphold Kyrgyzstan’s own laws protecting press freedom, we urge you to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to withdraw their application to close Radio Azattyk, lift the restrictions on the Service, and to work instead to foster a free media environment.
UKRAINE: RFE/RL Advocates for Journalist Imprisoned in Russian-Occupied Crimea
In March, RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly visited Ukraine, reinforcing the company’s commitment to counter malign Russian influence and support media freedom. During the visit, Fly advocated for imprisoned RFE/RL journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko and thanked Ukrainian officials for their ongoing efforts to secure his release.
RFE/RL thanks the European Union for its March 22 statement to the UN Human Rights Council condemning Russian authorities’ persecution of Ukrainian journalists including Vladyslav Yesypenko.
On March 18, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) released a statement calling on Russian authorities to immediately release Vladyslav. RFE/RL is grateful to Sen. Menendez for supporting Vladyslav and other Crimean journalists through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.
Vladyslav Yesypenko is a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributed to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. He was detained by FSB officers in March 2021 and tortured to extract a false confession. He is currently serving a five-year sentence for the alleged possession and transport of explosives, a charge he has steadfastly rejected.
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