Andrzej Poczobut, a Hrodna-based reporter for the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and Belarusian political prisoner of Polish descent, was awarded the title of Journalist of the Year 2021 at the Polish journalistic contest Grand Press.
For the first time, he got the title of the Journalist of the Year in 2011. Then he was a prisoner of conscience too.
“Andrzej Poczobut’s strength is not in his writing a significant text this year. His approach has been far more important than many reports, commentaries or journalism pieces. This is the testimony to the fact that freedom of speech is priceless and beyond discussion,” Jarosław Kurski, Gazeta Wyborcza deputy editor-in-chief, said when receiving the award on behalf of Poczobut.
Along with the statuette, a cash prize of PLN 40,000 (nearly $10,000) will be granted to Poczobut. He led in the voting by a substantial margin.
Andrzej Poczobut was arrested on 25 March 2021 and charged with ‘inciting hostility by a group of persons’ (Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code). He was recognized a political prisoner. The man refused to leave Belarus. Behind bars, he contracted COVID-19 and had a heart problem.
He has already received three letters from pro-government activist Yury Vaskrasenski, but he turned down his proposition to write a petition for clemency to Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, Vaskrasenski stated that he would still seek Poczobut’s release. In response, Poczobut stressed that he had not authorised anyone to act in this way in his case, including Vaskrasenski.
In 2010, Andrzej Poczobut was covering the events linked to the then presidential election in Belarus, for which he was detained and fined. In March 2011, a criminal case was opened against him for allegedly insulting the President, which resulted in his being taken in custody in early April. In the course of the reial held behind closed doors, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment with a 2-year reprieve. In July, he was released under a written pledge not to leave the country.
Apart from his flair for journalism, Poczobut has other hobbies: he is a Candidate Master of Sports in chess and a co-founder of the Belarusian-language punk band Deviation. He is also an activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus.