By Harry Mottram: The exiled democratically elected President of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has reported that the journalist Katsiaryna Andreeva who was arrested while reporting on protests over the stolen election has had an additional eight years added to her two year sentence for ‘state treason.’
Katsiaryna worked for the television channel Belsat TV reporting on a demonstration in the Square of Changes in Minsk where activist Raman Bandarenka was beaten to death in 2020. She was arrested there on November 15, 2020. In February 2021 she was sentenced to two years in prison for reporting on the demonstration – essentially for being a reporter.
A number of groups and individuals and nations have demanded her release including the Viasna Human Rights Centre, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the USA Embassy in Minsk and the President of Poland.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said: “Alexander Lukashenko’s repressive apparatus continues to try to grind brave journalists and activists to dust. Every day brings a new terrible and unjust criminal verdict.
“Today, Katsyaryna Andreeva, who is already serving an unfair two-year prison sentence, has been given an additional eight years in prison in a politically motivated sham trial. She is being subjected to absurd and baseless treason charges solely for her fearless work as a journalist.
“Katsyaryna and all other critics of the Belarusian authorities detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against them must be dropped.”
Also arrested with Katsiaryna Andreeva was her colleague Daria Chultsava guilty in a separate case on charges of “organisation and preparation of actions grossly violating public order, or active participation in them” (Article 342(1) of the Belarusian Criminal Code). The accusations against them stemmed from livestreaming a peaceful protest on 15 November 2020. Daria also recieved a two year sentence.
Journalists and activists in Belarus have faced large-scale repression since the August 2020 vote that handed a sixth term to president Alexander Lukashenko.
Following the election, which was rejected as fraudulent by the opposition and observers there has been a crack down on the independent media with a total of 36 journalists arrested on bogus charges.
Another to be arrested for simply reporting is Andrzej Poczobut who is a Belarusian and Polish journalist. As a correspondent for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Poczobut has been arrested more than a dozen times by the government of Belarus and is currently serving an eight year prison sentence.
Also in jail in Belarus for simply doing his job is Aliaksandr Mantsevich. Earlier this year his home in Viliejka was searched, after which he was detained and taken to Maladziečna pre-trial detention center.
The campainging website Spring 96 reported: “On March 27, it became known that Mr. Mantsevich was transferred to Žodzina pre-trial detention center. Later, the Investigative Committee reported that Mr. Mantsevich was charged with discrediting the Republic of Belarus under Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code.”
Aliaksandr Mantsevich is the editor-in-chief of Rehijanaĺnaja hazieta, the leading independent media outlet in Maladziečna and region.
After the 2020 presidential election, dozens of NGO and media websites have been blocked in Belarus, several printed media has been closed, and journalists of the Belarusian media have been imprisoned.
As of November 2023, 1,451 people in Belarus are held as political prisoners.
To add to the demands for the journalists to be released write to the General Prosecutor, Alyaksandr Koniuk, Internatsionalnaya str. 22, 220050, Minsk, Belarus.
More info at: Viasna: https://spring96.org/en/about
The International Federation of Journalists: https://www.ifj.org/
Amnsety International: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/
Pen International: https://www.pen-international.org/
Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: https://tsikhanouskaya.org/be/
Rapscallion Magazine is an online publication edited by Harry Mottram
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