Belsat TV crew (journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva and cameraman Maksim Kalitouski), photographer Alyaksandr Vasyukovich, Current Time cameraman Andrey Yarashevich had to stay overnight in Kastrychnitski district police department in Minsk.
They are reportedly to be tried for ‘violating the rules of holding mass events’ (Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences). It should be noted that the media workers were not participating in protests on August 27; they were performing their journalistic duties and covering the events in Belarus.
As reported earlier, dozens of journalists were detained on Thursday evening in Minsk. They were taken to Kastrychnitski district police department, where they were banned from using mobile phones. The policemen said they just wanted to check the detainees’ documents, but then they started to film the journalists without giving any reason. A bit later, the press secretary of the Interior Ministry commented on the situation, promising that all the foreign journalists who have accreditation and representatives of registered Belarusian mass media would be released.
Indeed, a number of reporters from abroad (BBC, TVN, some Russian channels) who got accreditation from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry left the police station after spending a few hours there. However, they did not receive any document confirming the fact of detention. Before midnight, well-known Swedish photo journalist Paul Hansen was released. However, the Belarusian authorities have imposed a five-year entry ban on him; the photographer is to depart from Belarus today.
The policemen were slow to free the Belarusian journalists who did mot let them check out their phones. Most of them got liberty only after the police seized their cameras, laptops, mobile phones, pendrives and other devices. For example, Nasha Niva photo reporter Nadzeya Buzhan was forced to delete pictures from her camera; the police officers said the camera might ‘accidentally’ fall down in case of her refusal. Three Belsat TV contributors – Nasta Reznikava, Syarhei Kavaliou, Alyaxei Kalupanka – were freed in the late evening. As BelaPAN journalist Tanya Karavenkova felt unwell in the police station, an ambulance crew was called.
The uniformed and plainclothed policemen started to grab journalists shortly before the start of the ecumenical march against violence. Its participants gathered near the Orthodox Holy Spirit Cathedral and headed to the Roman Catholic Church of St. Simon and St. Helene in Independence Square. People also formed a chain of solidarity, showing sympathy for victims of police abuse.
On Friday morning, there were 240 persons (mostly men) on the human rights defenders’ list of the protesters detained in the Belarusian capital on August, 27.