WASHINGTON—RFE/RL President Jamie Fly expressed deep concern for the health and safety of Belarus Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk, who was detained on November 26 by agents of the Belarusian government and remains in Belarusian custody despite the completion of two consecutive 10-day jail sentences.
Said Fly, “Andrey Kuznechyk has completed his sentences. As far as we know, Belarusian authorities continue to hold him, essentially as a kidnapped hostage. Andrey should be allowed to return to his family immediately. Journalism is not a crime.”
RFE/RL’s journalists and operations have been under severe pressure in Belarus for years by the government of longtime leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On December 3, a Belarusian court designated the Telegram and YouTube channels of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service as “extremist”. In addition, RFE/RL’s bureau in Minsk was raided and sealed by Belarusian security forces on July 16, 2021, and numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, and jailed for a collective 695 days since June 2020. In August 2020, RFE/RL’s journalists were stripped of their accreditations and the Belarus Service’s website has been blocked within Belarus.
This past Tuesday (December 14), prominent blogger and RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Belarusian court, following a five-month trial on charges widely considered to have been fabricated by Belarusian authorities, including “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.”
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. 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.