‘Imprisoned on groundless charges, for doing their jobs’. EEAS condemns sentencing Belsat journos

The European Union strongly condemns the repression carried out by the Belarusian authorities since the falsified elections of August 2020б the European External Action Service said on February, 19.

According to the bloc’s diplomatic service, the harassment of Belarusian human rights defenders, media workers, trade union representatives, and defence lawyers has escalated in recent days. In the official statement statement, EEAS lead spokesperson Peter Stano made mention of the harsh verdict that was pronounced in the case of Belsat TV contributors Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova on February, 18.

“Two Belsat journalists, Darya Chultsova and Katsyaryna Andreyeva, were both sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on groundless charges. Other media workers are facing a similar fate. Such verdicts aim to intimidate and silence journalists and media workers, who are simply doing their jobs, as well as aim to prevent factual information from reaching the Belarusian people and beyond,” the statement reads.

The EU urges the Belarusian authorities to cease their violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms – including press freedom, and abuse of the rule of law. Rather than escalating the use of violence, the Belarusian authorities should respect the wishes of its citizens and engage in an inclusive national dialogue, top EU diplomats believe.

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

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Their case was considered in Frunzenski district court of Minsk within three days. 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 girls.

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 and transferred to Zhodzina prison and kept in separate cells.

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

Story of imprisoned Belsat journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova

belsat.eu, following eeas.europa.eu

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