On December 4, Peter Stano, Spokesman for the European External Action Service, called on the Belarusian authorities to release all imprisoned Belarusian journalists and re-establish popular portal TUT.BY’s status as a media outlet.
“Revocation of tut.by’s status is latest move in blatant crackdown on journalists and free media. It must stop. Tut.by’s right to appeal must fully respected and status should be restored. EU calls for release of all imprisoned journalists, including Katsyaryna Barysevich,” he said on Twitter.
A day earlier, the Economic Court of Minsk deprived TUT.BY of its media outlet status. The lawsuit against the company was filed by the Information Ministry; the latter found ‘false information’ in its articles.
At the moment, three Belarusian journalists who faced criminal charges are behind bars.
In mid November, a Belsat TV crew (journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva (Bakhvalava) and camerawoman Darya Chultsova were detained immediately after their livestreaming and covering the brutal crackdown on protesters who gathered in the so-called Square of Change, one of the offstreet yards in Charvyakou Street in Minsk. Earlier, Minsker Raman Bandarenka had been abducted from that yard and beaten to death.
Chultsova and Andreyeva are accused of ‘organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order’ (Art. 342-1 of the Criminal Code). If found guilty, the two girls who are now being held in Zhodzina prison may be sentenced to up to three years of imprisonment.
TUT.BY reporter Katsyaryna Barysevich was arrested on November, 19 after a criminal case over allegedly ‘violating medical privacy which entailed grave consequences’ (Art. 178-3) had been opened. In her article about the tragic death of Raman Bandarenka, Barysevich referred to doctor Artsyom Sarokin who gave her medical records which showed that there had been no alcohol in the blood of the victim. Its authenticity was later confirmed by Bandarenka’s mother. Government officials, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, keep claiming that Raman Bandarenka, who was beaten to death by unknown individuals on November 11, was in a state of intoxication. Both Barysevich and Sarokin were taken to the notorious KGB prison ‘Amerykanka’ in Minsk; notably, Bandarenka’s murderers have not been found or identified yet.
On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised them as political prisoners.
It is an open secret that messages from outside give enourmous support and encouragement to a prisoner; that is why we urge our readers to send letters to the jailed journalists:
Кацярына Андрэева (Бахвалава): 222160 Беларусь, г. Жодзіна, вул. Савецкая, д. 22а / Katsyaryna Andreyeva (Bakhvalava): Savetskaya Street 22a, Zhodzina, 222160 Belarus
Дарʼя Чульцова: 222160 Беларусь, г. Жодзіна, вул. Савецкая, д. 22а / Darya Chultsova: Savetskaya Street 22a, Zhodzina, 222160 Belarus
Кацярына Барысевіч: Беларусь, 220030 г. Менск, вул. Валадарскага, д. 2. СІЗА № 1 / Katsyaryna Barysevich: Detention facility Nr 1, Valadarski Street 2, Minsk, 220030 Belarus
Don’t forget to enclose an empty envelope so that the girls could respond to your letter. Thank you for your unindifference!