WASHINGTON—RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned Thursday’s detention of Belarusian Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk by agents of the Belarusian government, and called for Kuznechyk’s immediate and unconditional release.
Said Fly, “The regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues its effort to crush all independent media in Belarus. Andrey was kidnapped by agents of the regime for nothing more than being a journalist. The regime also targeted one of our social media accounts, attempting to cut off more channels of information for the Belarusian people. Andrey should be released immediately and allowed to return to his wife and young children. He has committed no crime.”
Kuznechyk was detained outside of his apartment in Minsk by four unidentified men in plain clothes, after going out for a bike ride. He was then brought back to the apartment he shared with his wife and two children, which the four men proceeded to search. Kuznechyk was then forced to accompany the four men, who also took money from the home, along with Kuznechyk’s mobile phone and electronics and those of his wife.
RFE/RL’s journalists and operations have been under severe pressure in Belarus for years by the government of longtime leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The pressure has intensified dramatically in the past two years, as the COVID-19 pandemic, a deepening economic crisis, and a presidential election widely considered rigged in favor of Lukashenka combined to spark massive popular demonstrations in the streets of the capital, Minsk and other cities throughout the country.
The website of RFE/RL's Belarus Service has been blocked within Belarus since August 21, 2020, weeks after the disputed August 3 presidential election. The website of the Russian-language Current Time digital network, led by RFE/RL in collaboration with Voice of America, was similarly blocked earlier this month.
Ihar Losik, a popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant, has been in Belaruisan detention for 519 days, since he was detained on June 25, 2020, and accused of using his popular Telegram channel to "prepare to disrupt public order." Losik is currently on trial with five other defendants, on charges which are widely considered to have been fabricated by Belarusian authorities. Numerous Belarus Service and Current Time correspondents have also been detained, including Current Time journalist Raman Vasiukovich, who was shortlisted for Free Press Unlimited's "Most Resilient Journalist" award for his work in Belarus.
The accreditations of all locally based journalists working for foreign media, including RFE/RL, were annulled by the Belarusian authorities in October 2020.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 41 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 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.