WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich was released from prison in Belarus after serving nine months of an unjust sentence.
An award-winning journalist, Hruzdzilovich was arrested on December 23, 2021, and was tried on March 2 for “taking part” in mass protests in the aftermath of Alexander Lukashenka’s fraudulent re-election. He was sentenced to one and a half years in a penal colony. Hruzdzilovich consistently rejected the charges, stating he was working as an RFE/RL correspondent with Foreign Ministry accreditation at an August 2020 protest, and covered two other protests in October 2020 on assignment for his employer, the local newspaper Narodnaya Volya. The 63-year-old journalist previously served a 10-day sentence in July 2021 and a 15-day sentence in November 2020 for reporting on the protests.
“Aleh was robbed of time he will never get back with his family while wrongly imprisoned, and I am overjoyed that he will now be reunited with his wife and other loved ones,” said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly. “I am grateful to members of the international and advocacy communities for their unwavering support of Aleh’s case, but our work is not done. Ihar Losik and Andrey Kuznechyk should also be released immediately.”
RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik was arrested in June 2020 on fabricated charges. After a five-month trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in a penal colony in December 2021. In June, Losik was added to a terrorist watchlist. The court has also imposed prohibitive fines, resulting in asset forfeiture. RFE/RL’s Andrey Kuznechyk was arrested in November 2021, also on fabricated charges, and sentenced to six years in a penal colony in June. Both have endured immense suffering.
Belarusian human rights organization Viasna estimates there are 1337 political prisoners in Belarus, including 28 media workers.
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.