WASHINGTON – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) condemns the Lukashenka regime’s addition of imprisoned RFE/RL Belarus Service journalist Ihar Losik to a terrorist watch list.
Losik was arrested by Belarusian agents in June 2020 and tried on fabricated charges including “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.” After a five-month trial held behind closed doors, Losik was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison in December 2021. Since his arrest, Losik has faced severe physical and psychological pressures, and has undergone weeks of hunger strikes to protest his detention and charges.
“This escalation is an egregious abuse of the state’s authority and underlines the Lukashenka regime’s contempt for journalists who expose the truth,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “We continue to demand Ihar’s immediate release from prison so he can be reunited with his wife and daughter.”
Losik’s addition to Belarus’ terrorist watch list is the latest escalation in the country’s assault on free press in the region. Earlier this month, Andrey Kuznechyk, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Belarus Service was sentenced to six years in a maximum-security prison on the bogus charges of creating or participating in an “extremist organization.” Belarus Service journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich also received a sentence of one and a half years in a penal labor colony in March for “taking part” in mass protests that he was covering on assignment.
Additionally, RFE/RL was added to Belarus’ registry of “extremist organizations” in December 2021, RFE/RL’s bureau in Minsk was raided and sealed by Belarusian security forces in July 2021, and numerous other journalists on assignment to report on the disputed August 2020 presidential election were harassed, detained, and stripped of their accreditations.
RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, known locally as Radio Svaboda, with a monthly average of over 33 million visits to its websites and 59 million page views, was first established in 1954 and is a leading provider of news in one of Europe’s most restrictive societies, defying the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.
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.