To make the work of independent journalists unbearable, the authorities of the Republic of Belarus arrest, judge, fine, threaten them and destroy their privacy. However, independent media workers continue to produce uncensored content for which demand is growing, especially during the epidemic and presidential elections. Our story is about Belsat journalists, who have to take risks every day.
Repression against journalists is the only thing the state can do now to prevent them from working, Mikhail Arshynski, a cameraman from Mahiliou, who works with Belsat believes.
“People have stopped watching the state television. It was left in the last century. They need to respond with something, and they respond with repression,” said Mikhail.
The cameraman recalls that while serving his sentence for covering a rally of Syarhei Tsikhanouski he was tortured in the detention center. The radio was blasting from 6:00 to 22:00. Neither a blanket nor ear pads saved him.
Mikhail was released ahead of schedule. This is done on purpose: at any moment a person can be arrested again, even without a reason, to serve the rest of his sentence.
Most often employees of independent media are arrested for illegal production of media products. It happens that our colleagues covering mass protests are placed under administrative arrest by the police on charges of participation in an unauthorized mass event.
Thus, Dzmitry Lupach, a journalist from Hlubokaye, was charged with these two counts and sentenced to 10 days of arrest. He had a hypertensive crisis right in the courtroom. After two days in the intensive care unit, Dzmitry was transferred to an isolation ward.
However, despite all the obstacles, Dzmitry is not losing heart, continues to work and even jokes that he has his “personal” policeman in Hlubokaye, who detains him.
“When we met, he was a captain, now he is a major. Perhaps there is my merit, too,” the journalist smiles.
To prevent journalists from working, law enforcement officers are not shy about breaking the boundaries of private life. Policemen came to the neighbors of Mahiliou journalist Alina Skrabunova to tell them that the “illegal” journalist lives here.
During the search, a computer with private photos was taken from Homiel journalist Larysa Shchyrakova, who works with Belsat. The law enforcers sent them to women they knew, posted them in Larysa’s hacked account on a dating site.
“They corresponded with men on my behalf, agreed on things, then these men called me,” recalls Larysa.
The journalist suffered most during her coverage of the ‘social parasites’ protests in 2017-18. That’s when the authorities saw how effectively independent journalists work. Larysa was bombarded with fines.
“They used just everything possible,” recalls the woman. “There was both police harassment and judicial and psychological pressure”.
Threats from social services to take the child away led Larysa to a nervous breakdown. She had to go to a psychotherapist for help and take a break from work.
Now Larysa sometimes has to climb a fence out of her own yard to get to work and not to fall into the hands of the police, who are on duty near her house.
The author of the story, Dzmitry Mitskevich, has been detained more than once during the coverage of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s actions. He never stop streaming even being in the police car.
Why, despite the mockery by the authorities and endless persecution, journalists do not give up and continue to perform their professional duty? Don’t they take risks in vain? What keeps their spirit up? See the report by Dzmitry Mitskevich (video above).