Freedom of speech locked up: How many Belarusian media workers are now behind bars?

At the moment, dozens of media workers are behind bars in Belarus. This article was written on May 19. It is constantly being updated, since the authorities continue to detain journalists, photographers and bloggers.

TUT.BY case

Raid on TUTBY office in Minsk. 18 May 2021. Photo: Belsat

The following persons are known to have been detained as part of the criminal case opened against TUTBY Media company:

  • Maryna Zolatava, TUT.BY editor-in-chief, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Volha Loyka, a TUT.BY editor, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Alena Talkachova, a TUT.BY journalist, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;;
  • Lyudmila Chekina, TUTBY Media director general, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Iryna Rybalka, TUTBY Media deputy director, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Alyaksandr Dayneka, TUTBY chief technical officer, whereabouts unknown;
  • Anzhela Asad, TUTBY Media chief accountant, taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Maryia Novik, TUTBY Media deputy chief accountant; taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Ala Lapatka, TUTBY Media chief engineer, the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Katsyaryna Tkachenka, a TUTBY Media lawyer, taken to the detention centre on Akrestsin Street;
  • Andrey Audzeyeu, a manager at Publisher Box company (it provides advertising services for TUT.BY), taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Syarhei Pavalishau, Hoster.by director, taken to KGB detention centre;
  • Darya Danilava, director of the TUT.BY-related startup Rocket Data. Taken to the detention centre on Valadarski Street;
  • Yuliya Charnyauskaya, the widow of TUT.BY founder Yury Zisser and a well-known Belarusian cultural studies scholar. On May 18, she was taken to the reception room of Minsk clinical hospital Nr 1; a police officer was keeping a close watch on her even there. Then the woman, who went through through a hypertensive crisis, was discharged; the police escorted her. For two days, her whereabouts was unknown; on May 20, she was reported to have been interrogated by the Department of Financial Investigations and then placed under house arrest;
  • Iryna Kastsyuchenka is a former lawyer of the company. She was detained at her new workplace on May 20. As of 1 June, there were reports that some restrictions were imposed on her; no further details were provided. She is known not to have been taken into custody.

On May 18, Nasha Niva journalist Darya Burakina and Onliner.by journalist Alyaksandr Charnukha were detained near the TUT.by office in Minsk, but then released. The police raided the homes of detainees Zolatava and Talkachova, as well as those of TUT.BY editors Hanna Rudzenka, Volha Saukiv, Maksim Hayko. Dzmitry Heranin, director of Av.by, a Belarusian portal reporting about cars and vehicles, was questioned and released under a non-disclosure agreement. Artsyom Mayorau, a journalist at the newspaper Belarusians and Market, was taken to the detention centre on Akrestsin Street; then he was sentenced to 15 days of arrest.

Since May 18, TUT.by portal, one of the most popular media outlets in Belarus, has been blocked by the authorities.

Previous cases

Trial of Darya Chultsova (L) and Katsyaryna Andreyeva (R). 18 February 2021. Photo: AB / Belsat
  • Ihar Losik, a blogger (‘My Country Belarus’) and RFE/RL consultant, was arrested on 25 June 2020. He was accused of ‘participating in mass riots’ and ‘organising actions that grossly violate public order’. Now he is being held in remand prison Nr 3 (Gomel); he went on a hunger strike twice;
  • Katsyaryna Andreyeva, a Belsat TV journalist. She was detained on November 15 and later sentenced to 2 years in prison 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;
  • Darya Chultsova, a Belsat TV journalist. She was detained on November 15 and later sentenced to 2 years in prison 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;
  • Yuliya Slutskaya, the founder of Press Club Belarus, was detained on December 22 as part of the so called Press Club case; now she is in pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk;
  • Syarhei Alsheuski, Press Club Belarus director, was detained on December 22 as part of the so called Press Club case; now he is in pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk;
  • Ala Sharko, Press Club Belarus programming director, was detained on December 22 as part of the so called Press Club case; now she is in pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk;
  • Pyotr Slutski, a cameramen at Press Club Belarus director, was detained on December 22 as part of the so called Press Club case; now he is in pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk;
  • Kseniya Lutskina, a former reporter at state-run TV station Belarus-2 and a member of the opposition Coordination Council, was detained on December 22 as part of the so called Press Club case; now she is in pre-trial detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk;
  • Andrey Alyaksandrau, a journalist and media manager, was detained on January 12 together with his girlfriend Iryna Zlobina as part of the By_Help case. Now they are in pre-trial detention centre Nr in Minsk;
  • Dzyanis Ivashyn, a journalist contributing to Novy Chas and InformNapalm, was detained on March, 12 and charged with ‘interference in a police officer’s activity’, now he is in prison Nr 1 in Hrodna;
  • Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist at the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, was detained on March 25 as part of the case initiated against the Union of Poles in Belarus. Now he is being held in remand prison Nr 8;
  • Raman Pratasevich, a former editor-in-chief of protest-linked Telegram channels and an editor of My Country Belarus channel. he was arrested in Minsk in the wake of the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger plane flying from Athens to Vilnius. The grounding operation seems to have been deliberately planned and performed by pro-Lukashenka secret services;
  • Alyaksandr Ivulin, a journalist at Tribuna.com and a football player of FC Krumkachy, was detained on June 3 in his apartment and sentenced to 30 days in jail for allegedly showing a white-red-white flag in his window. On July 2, Alyaksandr was reported to become a suspect under a criminal article.

Syarhei Hardziyevich, a journalist of the First Region, spent 5 months under house arrest. He was released on December 22 under written pledge not to leave the country. He is a defendant in the criminal case opened over ‘insulting president’.

In addition, four other members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists are imprisoned: political analyst Alyaksandr Fyaduta (arrested in the ‘coup case’); Pavel Sevyarynets, a writer and co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party (sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony for ‘organising mass riots’); Ramuald Ulan, a former owner of the newspaper Smarhon’s Novaya Gazeta (sentenced to 2.5 years of restriction of liberty in an open-type correction facility for ‘slander against police officers’); human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka (suspected of ‘organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order’).


Police detaining journalist Ales Sabaleuski in Mahiliou. 30 August 2020. Photo: Belsat.eu

In December, Reporters Without Borders recognised Belarus as Europe’s most dangerous country for journalists again. In the period from August to December 2020, the organisation recordered 449 cases of violating freedom of speech and 368 cases of detaining journalists in Belarus. Throughout the year of 2020, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) registered 481 detentions of media workers. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 55 detentions of journalists and a total of 109 attacks on mass media, BAJ reports.

belsat.eu

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