Belsat is appealing for the world's reaction in regards to its imprisoned collaborators

As a consequence of the repressive actions taken after the rigged elections by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, tens of thousands of individuals were arrested, and, to this day, 1,500 people are serving long-term sentences. Thirteen of these individuals had previously worked with Belsat, which amounts to one-third of all media workers currently imprisoned in Belarus. Many individuals cooperated with Belsat. Now that the convicts have been sentenced and sent to penal colonies, it’s time to appeal for the world’s reaction regarding Belsat’s imprisoned collaborators. These courageous individuals have carried out the mission of independent journalism despite the threat of arrest. They didn’t leave the country and continued their work diligently.

Our colleagues were sentenced to 52 years and three months of imprisonment for simply doing their jobs.

Belsat has written a letter seeking help from the Swiss Ambassador to Poland, Fabrice Fillieza, who represents a neutral country that maintains contacts with the authorities of Belarus. The television station is urging the Swiss government to use its diplomatic channels to secure the release of their colleagues. They have also requested assistance from human rights organizations and freedom of speech advocates at the national and international levels to help release their collaborators and bring attention to their cases.


“It’s been months since the world’s attention has been fixed on the war against Ukraine, which Russia initiated. Additionally, the conflict in the Middle East has reignited. Nevertheless, we must remember those who were the first to stand up against evil and tyranny in Europe during this decade. They paid a high price for their freedom, and we must remember their sacrifices,” Belsat expressed in a letter.

Belsat is requesting the dissemination of information regarding the status of prisoners and urges monitoring of the actions taken by governments in countries where certain organizations operate. Additionally, Belsat recommends consistent and effective pressure on politicians to raise the issue of press persecution in Belarus internationally, making it a permanent topic on the diplomatic agenda. Finally, Belsat also appeals for funds to provide financial assistance and legal support to imprisoned journalists and their families.

We want to remind you that the Belarusian repressive apparatus currently holds dozens of journalists in terrible conditions: in prisons, detention centers, and penal colonies – solely for practicing their profession. The Lukashenka regime is taking revenge on them for sharing the truth about election fraud and the brutal suppression of the wave of social protest in 2020.

One-third of the journalists currently imprisoned in Belarus are collaborators of Belsat. We can reveal the names of nine individuals sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2.5 to over eight years. Also, four more individuals are in custody, but we cannot release their names due to ongoing legal proceedings. Revealing their identities could harm their legal case or subject them to further harassment in their current place of detention.

Katsiaryna Andreyeva (Bakhvalava), age: 30. Penalty: 8 years three months in a penal colony with a strict regime

Katsiaryna Andreyeva, (Bakhvalava), Photo by

On November 15, 2020, while covering an opposition demonstration, she was detained in Minsk. At first, she was sentenced to two years for organizing riots. However, she was later charged with high treason for allegedly disclosing state secrets of the Republic of Belarus to a foreign state, international or foreign organization, or their representatives. The judges Natallia Buhuk and Aleh Khoroshka issued a total sentence of eight years and three months in a maximum security penal colony.

Katsiaryna is currently kept in Penal Colony No. 4 in Homiel. Her health has significantly deteriorated during her almost three-year captivity. She has experienced declining eyesight and hearing, her allergies have worsened, and she frequently falls ill.

Pavel Mazheika, age: 45. Penalty: 6 years in a maximum security penal colony

Pavel Mazheika, Photo

On August 30, 2022, he was detained upon his return to Belarus after visiting his family in Poland, despite the risk of arrest. He was accused of providing extremist content to Belsat TV concerning the fate of a political prisoner. Judge Maksim Filatau sentenced him to 6 years in a maximum security penal colony. Currently, Pavel is in police custody and is awaiting an appeal.

In addition to hosting the talk show Intermarium on Belsat TV, Pavel was a local social activist. He founded the Center for Urban Life in Hrodna, which the authorities closed down after post-election repression.

In 2002, a Mazheika was sentenced to two years of forced labor for his journalistic activities. He was accused of slandering Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, due to an amnesty, he was released one year before completing his sentence.

Iryna Slaunikava, age: 53. Penalty: 5 years in a penal colony

Iryna Slaunikava, Photo TVP Info

On November 30, 2021, while returning to her country from a vacation, Iryna was detained at Minsk airport. She knew she could be arrested. She was later found guilty of organizing riots and creating an extremist group by the court and sentenced to 5 years. The verdict was given by Judge Mikalay Dola, who imposed a sentence one year longer than what the prosecutor had demanded. Iryna is serving her sentence in Penal Colony No. 4, located in Homiel.

Uladzimir Matskevich, age: 67. Penalty: 5 years in a maximum security penal colony

Uladzimir Matskevich, Photo

Uladzimir is an expert in philosophy and science methodology. He frequently shared his views on politics and social issues on Belsat. However, on August 4, 2021, the KGB arrested him. Following his arrest, he spent ten months in custody before being convicted of three charges – organizing riots, creating an extremist organization, and insulting the President. The judge who delivered the verdict was Siarhey Epikhau. Uladzimir was sentenced to five years in a strict regime penal colony.

He was sent to Correctional Colony No. 17 in Shklou after his conviction. However, after just five months, the court at the penal colony decided to transfer him to Prison No. 4 in Mahiliou, which ultimately led to him being confined to his cell with no freedom to move around. The reason for the change in his sentence terms remains unknown, but it can be assumed that it was due to political repression.

Uladzimir did not stop his literary activities behind bars. During his two-year imprisonment, Uladzimir wrote two books and underwent surgery.

Pavel Vinahradau, age: 35. Penalty: 5 years in a penal colony

Pavel Vinahradau, Photo

On December 22, 2021, he was arrested and accused of inciting social hatred, insulting the President, and organizing riots. He received a sentence of 5 years in prison from Judge Uladzimir Davydau. While in prison, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was transferred to Penal Colony No. 11 in Orsha, which houses prisoners with an active form of the disease. He was punished with solitary confinement for allegedly violating prison regulations and was not allowed to have visits from his relatives.

Pavel Padabied, age: 44. Penalty: 4 years in a penal colony

Pavel Padabied , Photo Viasna

On January 20, 2023, he was arrested and imprisoned for two weeks on charges of distributing extremist materials. However, he was not released and was accused of encouraging extremist activities. As a result, he was sentenced to four years in the Shklou correctional colony. The verdict was handed down by Judge Yauhen Pisarevich and was confirmed by Judge Yury Rutkouski during the appeal process.

Yauhen Merkis, age: 37. Penalty: 4 years in a penal colony

Yauhen Merkis, Photo Yauhen Merkis/VK

On September 13, 2022, a journalist was taken into custody and later charged with multiple offenses under the Penal Code. These charges included propaganda of extremist activities and participation in an extremist formation. The journalist was accused of cooperating with Belsat and sharing information on the movement of military equipment across Belarus on social media platforms. Following a trial by Judge Aliaksei Khlyshchenka, the journalist was sentenced to four years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at Penal Colony No. 17 in Shklou.

Viachaslau Lazarau, age: 47. Penalty: 5 years in a maximum security penal colony

Viachaslau Lazarau, Photo Telegram/viasna96

On February 9, 2023, the cameraman and photographer were arrested by the Investigative Committee for allegedly fostering extremist activities. On June 6, Tatsiana Pytsko, the cameraman’s wife, was also detained and charged with the same offense. Judge Yauhen Burunou delivered the verdict. Tatsiana was a teacher who lost her job at school for participating in the protests.

The couple’s children were taken away. The social services placed the one-year-old daughter in a regional hospital. After a month, Tatsiana’s relatives managed to take the girl in. The two children from the political prisoner’s first marriage now live with their father.

Larysa Shchyrakova, age: 50. Penalty: 3.5 years in a penal colony

Larysa Shchyrakova, Photo

On December 6, 2022, a journalist and tourist expert was arrested and detained. As a result, her sixteen-year-old son was taken into custody by the police and placed in a care and education center. Despite requests from her relatives, the authorities refused to release him to their custody. Consequently, the boy’s father, who lives permanently in Novosibirsk, had to travel to take him away personally.

Larysa was accused of participating in an extremist organization and discrediting Belarus. As a result, she was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by Mikalay Dola, among others, due to her cooperation with Belsat and the human rights organization Viasna. Despite having the option to appeal, the journalist refused, stating that in Lukashenka’s Belarus, appealing would only extend her stay in arduous detention. Consequently, she was sent to Penal Colony No. 4 in Homiel.

Following the fraudulent presidential elections held in August 2020, the journalist reported on the social protests in Homiel and the surrounding region for various independent media outlets. However, she was subjected to multiple arrests and fines as a result. Furthermore, she was threatened with having her child taken away during this time.

In February 2022, Larysa announced on Facebook that she was putting her journalistic activities on hold. Since then, she has been working as a photographer, organizing photo shoots featuring Belarusian folk costumes from her private collection to support her family.

Larysa is the author of multiple documentaries, including those focused on the folk culture of Palessie. Previously, she was the head of the Talaka tourism organization in Homiel. Her work there involved researching, preserving, and teaching elements of the local folklore to future generations.

 -Given the current economic and demographic collapse in Belarus, a coordinated effort by international diplomacy, public opinion, and non-governmental organizations, including journalists’ associations, could potentially lead to the release of the journalists whom the regime has unjustly detained. This gesture could serve as a promising first step towards a new era of openness, which would benefit all Belarusian political prisoners,” Belsat wrote in a letter to organizations defending press freedom and human rights.

A journalist in the Belarusian machine of repression

In Belarus, independent journalists constantly fear being arrested at any moment. The Belarusian government has labeled Belsat and other independent media outlets as extremist organizations, making it a crime to collaborate with them, regardless of the topics covered. Journalists are frequently charged with organizing riots, simply for reporting on post-election protests. Some are even accused of more serious offenses, such as insulting the President or high treason. This situation has made it increasingly difficult for journalists to exercise their profession safely and freely in Belarus.


Pre-trial detention can last for an extended period, usually over a year. The trial itself is a brief part of the detention time. There are times when the investigation halts for a few months. Prisoners can be subjected to various pressures in a detention center, such as being deprived of medical treatment, placed in a cell with instigators, or put in solitary confinement.


The trial process in Belarus is unjust due to significant flaws in the judicial system. Even when the accused journalist is lucky enough to receive the sentence requested by the prosecutor, judges may still add additional years to their imprisonment. In such a system, the actions of the defense hold no significance, as the only role of a lawyer is to ensure the prisoner’s contact with the outside world. Those convicted have no hope of leniency during the appeal, as there has never been a case where a higher court has revised the judgment in their favor.

The convicted journalist has finally been sent to one of the penal colonies. However, the transportation process is quite long and exhausting, and it may take several days, even though the distance to be covered is just a few hundred kilometers. During this time, the prisoner is subjected to thorough inspections and is moved from cell to cell. They are then transported to their place in a grated prison wagon. Upon reaching the destination, they have to undergo long-term inspection and quarantine procedures again.

Forced labor

Belarus has an inherited system of labor camps from the Soviet Union. The inmates in these camps must work and pay for the expenses incurred by the colony. In reality, the work is forced, and refusing to work is considered a violation of the regulations, which results in further consequences. The work assigned to prisoners varies depending on their place of exile. For instance, Belsat journalists were sent to the women’s colony in Homiel to sew uniforms. However, some of the work assigned can be hazardous to health, such as dismantling old batteries or recovering rubber from tires. Many of the products produced by the prisoners are sold in the Belarusian market for export.

Prisoners – “extremists”

Like other political prisoners, media workers are often viewed as susceptible to extremist tendencies and are distinguished by wearing special yellow badges. Theoretically, this classification is reserved for only the most dangerous prisoners prone to aggression and self-harm. Media workers are subjected to heavy supervision throughout the day and even during sleep as political prisoners.

Prisoners are even more isolated from the outside world in a penal colony. While detained, you can receive letters from people unrelated to you. However, only your immediate family members can send letters to the colony, which must go through the censorship department. Prison authorities often separate political prisoners to prevent them from supporting each other.

Prisoners in high-security colonies are not entitled to any visits and shipment privileges.

In penal colonies, there are various penalties for violating the regulations, but the prison administration often applies them arbitrarily. For instance, an inmate can be sent to solitary confinement without valid reason, merely for not fastening a button. If an inmate accumulates several such offenses, they may be transferred to a regular prison cell, losing the ability to go outside. Furthermore, there have been instances where sentences have been extended for particularly rebellious inmates.

List of addresses of Belsat’s appeal:

    • Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights
    • International Federation of Journalists
    • UN Commission on Human Rights
    • Reporters Without Borders
    • Freedom House
    • Human Rights Watch
    • Committee to Protect Journalists
    • European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
    • International Press Institute
    • Letter to Swiss organizations:
    • imprint – Les journalistes suisses
    • Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender (SSM) / Syndicat suisse des mass media (SSM)

Jakub Biernat /

Translated by PEV

Content of the letter

Dear Sirs / Dear Colleagues,

As representatives of Belsat TV, an independent media platform operating from Poland, which provides daily reliable and credible information in the Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Ukrainian languages to an audience of many millions in Eastern European countries, we would like to inform you of our attempt to bring about a diplomatic initiative with the participation of Swiss authorities to free independent Belarusian journalists detained since 2020 by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime,including thirteen of our colleagues, and ask you to support it.

When the eyes of the world have been on Russia’s unleashed war against Ukraine for many months,and today the Middle East conflict has also flared up anew, we must not forget the fate of those who,in this decade, in Europe, were the first to have the courage to stand up against evil and tyranny, and who were the first to pay a very high personal price for it: the price of freedom.

We are talking about the thirty-six journalists held by the Belarusian repressive apparatus in nightmarish conditions in prisons, detention centers and penal colonies of the new Gulag solely for doing their job, that is, reporting the truth about the 2020 electoral falsifications and the Minsk regime’s suppression of the wave of public protest.

This particular group of imprisoned Belarusians includes thirteen of our colleagues who, at various times and to various extents, collaborated with Belsat TV and ended up behind bars for many years for this collaboration. Among them, the most shocking is the case of Katsiaryna Andreyeva (Bakhvalava), who was sentenced for her work with two separate sentences totaling 8 years and 3 months in prison. The 30-year-old Katsiaryna has been behind bars for almost 3 years. She was detained by the security forces on November 15, 2020, while covering the protests in the streets of Minsk live on our TV channel.

Our other imprisoned colleagues, whose names we can make public without risking additional reprisals, are:

  1.  Pavel Mazheika, historian, journalist, 45, sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment under maximum security conditions.
  2. Irina Slavnikova, journalist, 53, sentenced to 5 years in prison.
  3. Uladzimir Matskevich, philosopher, journalist, host of one of our station’s programs, 67 years old, sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment under maximum security conditions.
  4. Viachaslaŭ Lazaraŭ,cameraman, journalist, 47, sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment under maximum security conditions.
  5. Pavel Vinahradaŭ, blogger, journalist, 35, sentenced to 5 years in prison.
  6. Yaŭhen Merkis,journalist, cultural activist, 37, sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
  7. Pavel Padabied, camera operator, 44, sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
  8.  Larysa Shchyrakova, journalist, photographer, 50, sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

In addition to the above nine people, there are four others in prison whose names we cannot disclose at this stage so as not to aggravate their situation in pending proceedings or expose them to additional harassment at their places of detention through their affiliation with Belsat TV.

In total, our colleagues and associates have been so far sentenced to 52 years and 3 months in prison solely for performing their professional duties.

Since the regime in Minsk betrays no signs of readiness to ease the repression of its own people, including journalists and activists in particular, successive appeals from the international community on this issue remain without effect, and the time of our colleagues behind bars is already counted in thousands of days, we have asked, through the Swiss Ambassador to Poland H.E. Mr. Fabrice Filliez, to the authorities of your country to explore the possibility of a real and effective diplomatic initiative aimed at the release by the regime of AlexanderLukashenko of the journalists it detains.

Switzerland, as a neutral country that does not belong to any military alliance, has a long tradition of providing aid to the persecuted, as well as “good offices” in such dramatic situations. In doing so, it is a country that effectively discounts its neutral status for the purpose of making compromises on just issues that benefit the common interests of humanity. Such an issue is indisputably the freedom of unjustly convicted Belarusian journalists.

Taking into account your organization’s role and impact, we are very much counting on your support for this initiative and showing professional solidarity to our imprisoned colleagues. Therefore, we ask you to take real action by:

– spreading the news about the initiative we have taken,

– monitoring the progress of the initiative and the actions taken on it by the authorities of the Swiss Confederation,

– exerting pressure on politicians in your country to put the topic of press persecution in Belarus on the international stage and put it permanently on the agenda of Swiss diplomacy,

– informing the Swiss public about the situation of political prisoners of the Lukashenko regime.

We are convinced that the success of the initiative and the resulting release of the journalists by the authorities in Minsk would be conducive to lowering social tension in a Belarus struggling with economic and demographic collapse, painfully affected by the consequences of its non-sovereign,confrontational policy. We believe that such a gesture could become a harbinger of a new opening, the beneficiary of which in the long run would be the entire group of over 1,500 Belarusian political prisoners.

We are counting on your solidarity and joint pressure on this issue on the authorities of countries and international organizations that are guardians of the idea of press freedom and promoters of fundamental human rights.

Yours sincerely,

Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy

Director and editor-in-chief of Belsat TV

Jakub Biernat /