During the coverage of Sunday’s protests in Belarus, a number of independent journalists were detained; several Belsat TV contributors were among them.
Our Vitsebsk-based reporter Alena Shabunya had to spend 3.5 hours in the police station. After being interrogated and photographed for the file, she was charged with working without accreditation under Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences; the article is commonly used by the authorities to persecute independent journalists. The charge concerns her contribution to the news story about Fr. Jerzy Wilk, a Polish missionary working in Belarus.
Freelancer Artsyom Lyava who has been cooperating with Belsat for a long time was detained not far from Kamarouski market during the March of People Power in Minsk. His relatives said that the man was taken to Pershamayski district police station and then to the detention centre in the town of Zhodzina (50 km from Minsk).
On Monday morning, we did not have any information about Yauhen Shapchyts, Minsk-based producer contributing to Belsat TV, who had been out of touch nearly 24 hours. Later, the man’s family was informed of his being transported to the jail in Zhodzina.
However, there is also good news: having spent 10 days in custody, Viktar Yarashuk, a journalist from Pinsk, was released on November, 8. Earlier, he was found guilty of ‘participating in an illegal mass event’ under Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences. In fact, the Belsat reporter had only covered the protest rally. Trying journalists for taking part in demonstrations is against the Belarusian law; in accordance with the law on media, a person reporting from a public event is not a participant in it.
Since the beginning of post-election protests on August 9, Belsat journalists and contributors have been sentenced to a total of 256 days of administrative arrest.