Online petition: Belarusians call on Western leaders to push for release of jailed Belsat journos

The Belarusian House in Warsaw started collecting signatures under the petition in support of imprisoned Belarusian journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova. Appealing to the leaders of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, the foundation demands the West introduce the sanctions that would force the Lukashenka regime to release the two Belsat TV contributors.

On February 18, judge Natallya Buhuk passed a verdict of guilty and sentenced Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova to two years of imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony.

“Despite the absurd accusations and lack of evidence of ‘coordinating protesters’, the court in Minsk decided that two young journalists of the Belsat TV channel would spend the next two years in a penal colony. This decision violates not only the generally accepted principles of justice, but even the Belarusian law! Such ruling makes it clear to the Belarusian journalistic community that showing the truth about the regime’s crimes in the media, reporting on the protests and giving the public an honest picture of the current political crisis in Belarus will be treated as anti-state activity and will be punished. It is a show trial designed to intimidate journalists and, consequently, to cut off the entire Belarusian nation and the international community from information about what is happening in the country ruled by Lukashenka for more than a quarter of a century,” authors of the petition say.

According to the Belarusian House, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has repeatedly shown that he is incapable of dialogue, he responds only to strength.

“We therefore call on the international community – politicians, human rights defenders, media workers and all those who have freedom of expression at heart – to show solidarity and support for Katsya and Dasha. We appeal to the leaders of the free world – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – use all the available means to help release the journalists, support the rule of law and accelerate the resolution of the political crisis in Belarus. These means, among others may include putting pressure on the regime by strengthening sanctions on Lukashenka and his circle,” the appeal reads.

Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy: This is a black day in the history of Belarus and Belsat

The journalists’ 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 two 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 the judge took heed of the prosecution’s opinion.

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.

At first, Katsya and Dasha had administrative reports filed against them under Article 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code. They were accused of allegedly participating in an unauthorized protest and disobeying the police. On November 17, a Minsk court sentenced them to 7 days of administrative arrest for their professional activities. The court ruling said that Katsyaryna and Darya had committed an offense, but their actions did not constitute a crime. However, contrary to the court’s findings, a criminal case was launched against Belsat journalists right at that time. 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). The girls were kept in custody, transferred to Zhodzina prison and held in separate cells.

On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.

Anyone who does not stay indifferent to the situation the girls found themselves in can sign the petition on (in English, Belarusian, Polish).

Story of imprisoned Belsat journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, following