Imprisoned Belsat TV journalists among 2021 Free Media awardees

Five Belarusian journalists and media institutions got Fritt Ord’s Free Media Awards for 2021. The Fritt Ord Foundation awards the press prizes in collaboration with the ZEIT Foundation of Germany.

Darya Chultsova and Katsyaryna Andreyeva. Мinsk, 18 February 2021. Photo: АВ / Belsat

“The situation for independent journalists and media outlets in Belarus is alarming and, since the presidential election in August 2020, it has been dramatic. This year’s Free Media Awards, which are earmarked for journalists and media all across Eastern Europe, are being awarded to five journalists, investigative editorial boards and institutions in Belarus, the most dangerous country in Europe for those who work in the media,” the statement reads.

The prize laureates are Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova (Belsat TV), Katsyaryna Barysevich (, 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’.

Story of imprisoned Belsat journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova

The Belarusian authorities arrested 480 journalists last year; the journalists served the total of 1200 days in prison.

“Regrettably, the situation has moved further in the wrong direction in 2021. We are seeing systematic attacks on independent media. We have not only witnessed many new cases of imprisonment, fines for ‘violations of rules on mass assembly’, ‘disobeying the police’ and ‘violations of laws on mass media’, but also restrictions and forced closures of activities run by major media outlets and organisations that advocate for the rights of journalists, including BAJ itself,” ZEIT-Stiftung and Fritt Ord noted.

Commenting on the awards, the foundations recall that 29 journalists and media leaders are currently imprisoned in Belarus. With this year’s Free Media Awards, they want to ‘draw attention to injustices, to support Belarusian journalists’ struggle for a free press and to honour the impressive work they have done under such difficult conditions’.

Belsatters Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were detained on November 15, 2020, for video recording the violent dispersal during the action in memory of Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of the public memorial by security forces. Katsyaryna and Darya were later charged under Part 1 of Article 342 (‘organisation and preparation of actions grossly violating public order’). On February 18, judge Natallya Buhuk of Frunzenski district court of Minsk sentenced the girls to two years’ imprisonment in a minimum-security penal colony. Our colleagues who did not admit their guilt and considered the persecution as revenge for their professional activities have already spent over 260 years behind bars. Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.

Life of jailed journalists Katsya Andreyeva and Dasha Chultsova in letters