WASHINGTON – As prominent blogger and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Belarus consultant Ihar Losik marked his 300th day in pre-trial detention, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly renewed his call for Losik’s immediate release and an end to the Belarusian government’s crackdown on independent journalists.
Fly said, “Ihar Losik has been cruelly separated from his wife, his daughter, and his colleagues for far too long. Ihar must be freed from detention and allowed to rejoin his family. The Lukashenka government’s repressive campaign against independent journalists, including RFE/RL reporters and staff, must cease so they can continue their work to provide objective information to the people of Belarus.”
Losik’s detention was prominently noted in legislation passed yesterday (April 20) by the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his statement supporting the reimposition of sanctions on nine state-owned Belarusian companies on Monday (April 19). U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Helsinki Commission, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, Lithuanian Seimas Speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, U.S. Agency for Global Media, among others, have also called for Losik’s release.
Losik was detained on June 25, 2020, following a search of his apartment in the Belarusian city of Baranavichy. A prominent blogger, Losik has been accused by authorities of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the controversial August 9 presidential election in Belarus that longtime incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims to have won in a landslide amid allegations of widespread fraud. Since then, authorities have added unknown additional charges against Losik – who has started two hunger strikes to protest his detention.
In addition to Losik, numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations. On October 2, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry canceled the accreditations of all journalists working for foreign media organizations in the country. To date, no Belarusian nationals working for Western media outlets have been accredited under the new procedures.
About RFE/RL's Belarus Service
Despite working in what Reporters Without Borders calls “the most dangerous country in Europe for media personnel,” RFE/RL's Belarus Service continues to provide independent news and analysis of the fast-moving events to Belarusian audiences in their own language, relying on social media platforms such as Telegram, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as mirror sites and an updated news app to circumvent pervasive Internet blockages and access disruptions.
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.