As it was revealed in August, five Belarusian journalists and media institutions got Free Media Awards for 2021. The press prizes are presented by the Norwegian Fritt Ord Foundation in collaboration with the ZEIT Foundation of Germany.
“The prizes provide support for journalists and media that report independently and refuse to give up in the face of threats. The media operate under tremendous pressure in many countries in Eastern Europe. With the Free Media Awards, we aspire to encourage journalists and media to carry on their work, despite threats and violent oppression. With the Free Media Awards, we seek to express our respect and admiration in an effort to strengthen independent journalism,” Fritt Ord says on its official website.
The prize laureates are Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova (Belsat TV), Katsyaryna Barysevich (Tut.by), the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Natallya Lubneuskaya (Nasha Niva). The five recipients have been awarded the prizes for their ‘unparalleled efforts’ and ‘courage in investigating, covering and documenting the past year’s political crises in Belarus’.
The awarding ceremony is to start at 5 pm in Hamburg. A representative of Belsat TV is expected to receive the award on behalf of Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were arrested on November 15 for broadcasting live a violent dispersal of a rally in memory of murdered protester Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of a national memorial in the so called Square of Change by security forces. They were filming and commenting on what was going on from the apartment on the 14th floor of the house on Smarhouski Trakt Street in Minsk, where they had been invited by the hosts. After the rally, armed riot police broke the door to the apartment and detained the crew. On November 20, they were charged under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’).
Their case was considered in Frunzenski district court of Minsk within three days in February. The investigators claim the Belsat crew ‘coordinated protesters and called for further actions’, but the two media workers were just performing their professional duties by reporting from the scene. Moreover, in accordance with the authorities’ version, the livestream of the journalists resulted in the stoppage of 13 buses, 3 trolleybuses and 3 streetcar routes as well as the damage to the city transport agency Minsktrans (around 11,562 rubles). Public prosecutor Alina Kasyanchyk demanded the girls serve a two-year prison term each and their working equipment be confiscated in profit of the state. The defence lawyers asked the court to acquit the defendants due to the lack of evidence, but judge Natallya Buhuk took heed of the prosecution’s opinion.
On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.
In late April, Minsk City Court rejected their appeals, upholding the sentences delivered. Behind bars, the girls were placed on the preventive register as ‘persons prone to extremism and other destructive actions’. Being added to the above mentioned list means more severe treatment of an inmate and restricting their rights even in prison.
In June, Andreyeva and Chultsova were transferred to the women’s penal colony in the Belarusian city of Homiel.
You can show your support and write to them:
Katsyaryna Bakhvalava (Andreyeva) / Darya Chultsova
Penal colony Nr 4,
Antoshkin Street 3
246035 Homiel, Belarus
Don’t forget to enclose an empty envelope so that the girls could respond to your letter. Thank you for your unindifference!