Two of our colleagues, Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, have been sentenced to two years in prison. The Belarusian court found the live stream in which Katsya and Dasha showed a rally in memory of the murdered protester Raman Bandarenka and its brutal crackdown by security forces was a crime.
Minsk city court is to consider the appeal by the two Belsat contributors tomorrow, on April, 23, The hearing starts at 10 am. On the same day, representatives of Belsat TV and the Belarusian diaspora in Poland will be holding a picket of solidarity with our jailed colleagues as well as all independent journalists persecuted by the Belarusian authorities. The event is to kick off at 19.00 (local time) near the building of the Belarusian Embassy in Warsaw (Wiertnicza Street, 58).
Belsatters Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova have been behind bars for over five months.
They were arrested on November 15 for broadcasting live a violent dispersal of people paying tribute to 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 crew. 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 two Belsattters’ case was considered in Frunzenski district court of Minsk within three days in February. 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 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 judge Natallya Buhuk took heed of the prosecution’s opinion.
On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.