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    Марафон салідарнасці БАЖ журналісты-палітвязні

    Marathon of sol­i­dar­i­ty with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Vil­nius, May 3, 2023. Pho­to: BAJ







    Crim­i­nal cas­es

    The case of Andrzej Poc­zobut

    The case of Mary­na Zolata­va and Liud­mi­la Chek­ina

    The case of Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va

    The case of Henadz Mazhey­ka

    The case of Kanstantsin Zalatych

    The case of Yauhien Merkis

    The case of Dzmit­ry Sem­chanka

    The case of Pavel Mazhei­ka

    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Lychau­ka and Sni­azhana Inanets

    The case of Andrei Famin

    The case of Larysa Shchyrako­va

    The case of Pavel Pad­abed

    The case of Viachaslau Laza­rau and Tat­siana Pyt­sko

    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Mant­se­vich

    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Ziank­ou

    The case of Ihar Karnei

    The case of Andrei Tolchyn

    The case of Dzia­n­is Dashke­vich

    The case of Uladz­imir Khilmanovich (‘in absen­tia’)

    The case of Ales Sabaleus­ki

    The case of ‘Ranak’ TV com­pa­ny

    The case of Pavel Maryn­ich (‘in absen­tia’) 

    Pros­e­cu­tion of blog­gers

    Pres­sure on Jour­nal­ists and Mass Media







    The repres­sive poli­cies of gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ties in rela­tion to the Belaru­sian inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists as part of their wider strug­gle with dis­sent were fur­ther applied in 2023. The Belaru­sian inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists, blog­gers and media out­lets faced the increas­ing pres­sure and restric­tions with­in the peri­od under review:

    • crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists and blog­gers,
    • two waves of repres­sion on the part of secu­ri­ty forces, includ­ing the first one that took place in March 2023 (appar­ent­ly, it was relat­ed to the act of sab­o­tage that occurred at a mil­i­tary air­field near Min­sk on Feb­ru­ary 26th) and the sec­ond one in the fall of 2023, which was obvi­ous­ly con­nect­ed to the prepa­ra­tions for the Sin­gle Vot­ing Day for the par­lia­men­tary and local elec­tions, sched­uled for Feb­ru­ary 25, 2024,
    • the fight against “extrem­ism” as a basis for cen­sor­ship and per­se­cu­tion (e.g., access to the con­tent of mass media that con­tin­ued to oper­ate from abroad was blocked, and any coop­er­a­tion with them was con­sid­ered as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of extrem­ism),
    • the appli­ca­tion of admin­is­tra­tive and leg­isla­tive mea­sures to restrict access to infor­ma­tion and, in par­tic­u­lar, the adop­tion of restric­tive amend­ments to the law “On Mass Media”,
    • the adop­tion of new gov­ern­men­tal poli­cies, which were direct­ed to for­mal­ize and ide­ol­o­gize the activ­i­ties of state-owned media as tools of pro­pa­gan­da and strug­gle with dis­sent in the con­di­tions of the alleged “infor­ma­tion war against Belarus and Rus­sia”.


    Belarus dropped by four posi­tions over the recent year in the Press Free­dom Index pub­lished by Reporters With­out Bor­ders, hold­ing the 157th place among 180 coun­tries of the world. It can be found among 31 coun­tries rat­ed as ‘very poor’ for press free­dom, between Pales­tine and Nicaragua.

    The posi­tion of Belarus in the Free­dom on the Net annu­al glob­al rank­ing list, com­piled and pub­lished by a human rights orga­ni­za­tion Free­dom House, has dete­ri­o­rat­ed, too. As a coun­try lack­ing free Inter­net, it received only 25 points out of 100 pos­si­ble, com­pared to 28 points a year before.

    Accord­ing to Reporters with­out Bor­ders, Belarus held the third posi­tion in the rank­ing list 2023 after Chi­na and Myan­mar as for the num­ber of media work­ers, who were kept behind bars for the peri­od of more than 48 hours, amount­ing to 55 peo­ple dur­ing the year. Ten of them were female jour­nal­ists. It was the sec­ond posi­tion after Chi­na (14) in the rank­ing list.

    The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty drew close atten­tion to the polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Thus, the UN Work­ing Group on Arbi­trary Deten­tion con­clud­ed that the gov­ern­ment of Belarus vio­lat­ed the inter­na­tion­al human rights law by impris­on­ing Ihar Losik, a con­sul­tant for the Belarus ser­vice of Radio Free Europe / Radio Lib­er­ty, since “the arrest and deten­tion of Mr. Losik were based sole­ly on his jour­nal­is­tic activ­i­ty and his exer­cise of the free­doms of expres­sion and of asso­ci­a­tion”.

    The US State Depart­ment pre­sent­ed the sto­ries of Belaru­sians Ihar Losik and Maria Kalesnika­va as part of #With­outJust­Cause glob­al ini­tia­tive in sup­port of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers from around the world. The unique sto­ries of sev­er­al polit­i­cal pris­on­ers were shared in order to focus pub­lic atten­tion on the sit­u­a­tion of thou­sands of polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned indi­vid­u­als, who are unjust­ly kept behind bars in dif­fer­ent parts of the plan­et.

    The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists (CPJ) inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion pub­lished a por­trait of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ist Kat­siary­na Andreye­va among the pho­tos of sev­en impris­oned media work­ers from dif­fer­ent parts of the world on a spe­cial page in the paper edi­tion of “The Wash­ing­ton Post” dai­ly.

    The Pol­ish “Gaze­ta Wybor­cza” news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al includ­ed the polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ist Andrzej Poc­zobut (as well as Maryia Kalesnika­va) in the list of heroes of 2022. The same jour­nal­ist was award­ed one of the 30 medals, mark­ing the 75th anniver­sary of Karski’s WWII mis­sion, issued by the Jan Kars­ki Soci­ety in New York. The ratio­nale stat­ed as fol­lows: “Just as the leg­endary emis­sary of the Pol­ish under­ground state endured Nazi impris­on­ment and tor­ture, Andrzej Poc­zobut is sim­i­lar­ly test­ed for phys­i­cal endurance, for­ti­tude of char­ac­ter and tenac­i­ty in the spir­it of hope.” Andrzej Poc­zobut also received the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Press Clubs Free­dom of Speech Award 2023 and became a lau­re­ate of the Pol­ish human rights prize named after Sér­gio Vieira de Mel­lo.


    A num­ber of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists and media resources in exile were award­ed for their activ­i­ties.

    A for­mer employ­ee of ‘Radio Lib­er­ty’ and ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel Han­na Liubako­va was pre­sent­ed an inter­na­tion­al award of One Young World non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion (UK) in July 2023. She was hailed as a voice from Belarus, who talks about the sit­u­a­tion in her native coun­try at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el.

    On Sep­tem­ber 14, 2023, the edi­to­r­i­al team of ‘Reform.by’ media out­let was announced as one of the win­ners of the 2023 Free Media Awards in the field of media free­dom for “cov­er­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Belarus in par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.” This award has been found­ed by the Fritt Ord Foun­da­tion (Nor­way) and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebe­lin und Gerd Bucerius char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion (Ger­many).

    Jour­nal­ists Aleh Hruzdzilovich (non-fic­tion book “My Prison Walls”) and Vol­ha Klask­ouskaya (per­son­al prison diaries) were announced as lau­re­ates among oth­er win­ners of Frantsishak Alyakhnovich Prison Lit­er­a­ture Award for the best lit­er­ary works, cre­at­ed in impris­on­ment. A jour­nal­ist of Radio Lib­er­ty Andrei Kuzniechyk was pre­sent­ed Frantsishak Alyakhnovich Prison Lit­er­a­ture Award for his poems.

    A jour­nal­ist Yahor Martsi­novich was pre­sent­ed the “Hope of Free­dom” award in the Seimas of Lithua­nia on Decem­ber 7, 2023. The media work­er spent 2.5 years in prison before being released from cus­tody in the sum­mer of 2023. The award is pre­sent­ed to Belaru­sian inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists as a sign of sup­port for free­dom of speech.

    The founder of the Belaru­sian Inves­ti­ga­tion Cen­tre Stanis­lau Ivashke­vich was pre­sent­ed the “Anti-Cor­rup­tion Cham­pi­ons Award” (ACCA) for his unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the fight against cor­rup­tion and the rein­forc­ing impact of sanc­tions against Rus­sia and Belarus.

    The inde­pen­dent media and civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions, which con­tin­ued their activ­i­ties from abroad, respond­ed to pres­sure and repres­sion with sol­i­dar­i­ty and mutu­al sup­port. Thus, the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ) arranged the inter­na­tion­al “Marathon of Sol­i­dar­i­ty” with impris­oned jour­nal­ists and took part in “We care!” online char­i­ty marathon of sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Belaru­sian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, arranged by influ­en­tial inde­pen­dent mass media and blog­gers. The sum of col­lect­ed dona­tions dur­ing the fundrais­ing event exceed­ed EUR 574,000.

    The BAJ’s activ­i­ty in sup­port of the inde­pen­dent Belaru­sian press was marked by the award of the East­ern Part­ner­ship Civ­il Soci­ety Forum, pre­sent­ed on Novem­ber 14, 2023.

    At the same time, the BAJ was labeled by the KGB as an “extrem­ist for­ma­tion” on Feb­ru­ary 28, 2023. The BAJ’s web­site, pages on social media, and logo were arbi­trar­i­ly rec­og­nized as “extrem­ist mate­ri­als” on the ini­tia­tive of Min­sk City Pub­lic Prosecutor’s office. As it was men­tioned in the pub­lic prosecutor’s state­ment, “the specifed resources pur­pose­ful­ly con­tributed to the for­ma­tion of sources of threats to nation­al secu­ri­ty, incit­ing social enmi­ty and hos­til­i­ty through the dis­sem­i­na­tion of inac­cu­rate or delib­er­ate­ly dis­tort­ed infor­ma­tion. Being addressed to an unlim­it­ed cir­cle of peo­ple, the post­ed infor­ma­tion was delib­er­ate­ly politi­cized and biased.”

    Also, the Belaru­sian author­i­ties seized the domain name of BAJ at the end of 2023 — begin­ning of 2024. Since the begin­ning of 2024, the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists has changed the address of its web­site to https://baj.media/, and its email address to office@baj.media (for inter­na­tion­al mail­ing — intercomm@baj.media).



    The law “On Licens­ing” entered into force on Jan­u­ary 1, 2023. Among oth­er things, it reg­u­lates the field of TV and radio broad­cast­ing. In par­tu­cu­lar, it has intro­duced the require­ment of pass­ing a qual­i­fi­ca­tion exam for the spe­cial­ists, who are respon­si­ble for broad­cast­ing TV or radio pro­grams, as well as for ensur­ing the com­pli­ance of their con­tent with legal require­ments. The exam con­tent is based on the pro­gram, approved by the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion on Jan­u­ary 18, 2023.

    The Crim­i­nal Code  was sup­ple­ment­ed with new “extrem­ist” crimes. The cor­re­spond­ing law “On Amend­ments to Codes on Crim­i­nal Respon­si­bil­i­ty” came into force on March 24, 2023. Thus, Arti­cle 289–1 intro­duced lia­bil­i­ty for “pro­pa­gan­da of ter­ror­ism or its pub­lic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” (max. pun­ish­ment – 7 years in prison). Arti­cle 369–1 (“dis­cred­it­ing the Repub­lic of Belarus”) was sup­ple­ment­ed with lia­bil­i­ty for dis­sem­i­nat­ing know­ing­ly false infor­ma­tion, dis­cred­it­ing the armed forces of the Repub­lic of Belarus, oth­er troops, and mil­i­tary for­ma­tions, as well as para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tions of the Repub­lic of Belarus.

    On June 30, 2023, the law “On Amend­ments to the Law “On Mass Media”” was adopt­ed. It entered into force three months after this date. The law fur­ther restricts the activ­i­ties of the press. In par­tic­u­lar,

    • the pos­si­bil­i­ty of apply­ing retal­ia­to­ry mea­sures against for­eign media has been estab­lished. The Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion got enti­tled to ban the activ­i­ties of for­eign media and their jour­nal­ists in Belarus based on the infor­ma­tion, pro­vid­ed by the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs. The restric­tion includes the ban on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the con­tent of these media on the Inter­net and by oth­er media,
    • the require­ments for the func­tion­ing of news aggre­ga­tors, which have been oblig­ed to pre­vent the dis­tri­b­u­tion of mate­ri­als of “blocked” Web-resources and hyper­links to them as well as to pro­vide the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion with “the data for the infor­ma­tion analy­sis” with­in 5 busi­ness days under the threat of being blocked by the deci­sion of the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion were trans­ferred from Pres­i­den­tial Decree No. 116 “On News Aggre­ga­tors in the Glob­al Com­put­er Net­work Inter­net” (2022) into the law,
    • the list of grounds for can­cel­ing media reg­is­tra­tion cer­tifi­cates and restrict­ing access to Web-resources, online pub­li­ca­tions, and news aggre­ga­tors was expand­ed. Thus, the new grounds include the pub­li­ca­tion of mate­ri­als of unreg­is­tered TV and radio broad­cast­ing media and the involve­ment of the mass media founder or the legal enti­ty entrust­ed with edi­to­r­i­al func­tions in the extrem­ist or ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties,
    • deci­sions on restrict­ing access to the infor­ma­tion­al web­sites can be tak­en with­in six months from the day, when the grounds for such lim­i­ta­tions occured. The deci­sions may spec­i­fy a peri­od dur­ing which the access to these Web-resources can­not be restored.

    Amend­ments to the Law “On Cit­i­zen­ship of the Repub­lic of Belarus” entered into force on July 11, 2023. On the basis of these amend­ments, the author­i­ties can deprive peo­ple of their Belaru­sian cit­i­zen­ship, in case they left the coun­try and were con­vict­ed on “extrem­ist” charges. Among oth­er things, cit­i­zen­ship can be revoked for the alleged par­tic­i­pa­tion in the activ­i­ties or lead­er­ship of an “extrem­ist for­ma­tion”, as well as for the alleged financ­ing or facil­i­ta­tion of “extrem­ist activ­i­ties”. The jour­nal­ists who reside in exile and work for the mass media, which have been labeled by the Belaru­sian author­i­ties as “extrem­ist for­ma­tions,” may be affect­ed by the law, if con­vict­ed ‘in absen­tia’, i.e. with­out the per­son­al par­tic­i­pa­tion of defen­dants in the tri­al ses­sions.


    The law “On Amend­ments to the Law of the Repub­lic of Belarus “On Pub­lish­ing in the Repub­lic of Belarus”” was adopt­ed on July 17, 2023. It revised the grounds for sus­pend­ing the publisher’s, producer’s or press distributor’s cer­tifi­cate of state reg­is­tra­tion by the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion. The law pro­vides for the oper­a­tion of the Nation­al Expert Com­mis­sion for Eval­u­a­tion of Sym­bols, Para­pher­na­lia, and Infor­ma­tion Prod­ucts to eval­u­ate print­ed pub­li­ca­tions for the pres­ence (absence) of infor­ma­tion mes­sages and (or) mate­ri­als, which can harm the nation­al inter­ests of the Repub­lic of Belarus if pub­licly dis­sem­i­nat­ed. Fol­low­ing the Commission’s find­ings, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion is sup­posed to com­pile a list of print­ed pub­li­ca­tions con­tain­ing infor­ma­tion mes­sages and (or) mate­ri­als, which can harm the nation­al inter­ests of the Repub­lic of Belarus if pub­licly dis­trib­uted and post this list on the Ministry’s offi­cial Web­site.

    On Octo­ber 17, 2023, the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters adopt­ed Res­o­lu­tion No. 688 “On Amend­ments to the Res­o­lu­tions of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters of the Repub­lic of Belarus”, which amend­ed a num­ber of pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment res­o­lu­tions regard­ing the coun­ter­ac­tion to “extrem­ism” and “reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Nazism”. In par­tic­u­lar, it estab­lished a detailed pro­ce­dure for ana­lyz­ing infor­ma­tion on the sub­ject of “extrem­ism”. Among oth­er things,

    • the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion was autho­rized to take a deci­sion on ban­ning (restor­ing) the activ­i­ties of for­eign mass media and Web-resources that dis­trib­ute their pro­duc­tion, infor­ma­tion mes­sages and (or) mate­ri­als on the ter­ri­to­ry of the Repub­lic of Belarus,
    • the new types of media out­lets were oblig­ed to pro­vide “copies of doc­u­ments” to the Min­istry free of charge, includ­ing the “com­bined” media (pro­vid­ing the copies of the print­ed text and audio and (or) images on oth­er tan­gi­ble stor­age media), the online pub­li­ca­tions as well as the print­ed peri­od­i­cal edi­tions, which are pro­duced orprint­ed out­side the Repub­lic of Belarus on the orders, placed by the Belaru­sian media out­lets,
    • the Nation­al Expert Com­mis­sion for Eval­u­a­tion of Sym­bols, Para­pher­na­lia, and Infor­ma­tion Prod­ucts for Pres­ence or Absence of Signs of Extrem­ism was trans­formed into the Nation­al Expert Com­mis­sion for Eval­u­a­tion of Sym­bols, Para­pher­na­lia, and Infor­ma­tion Prod­ucts. (The Region­al and Min­sk City Expert Com­mis­sions were renamed in a sim­i­lar way). The detec­tion of “infor­ma­tion mes­sages and (or) mate­ri­als, which can harm the nation­al inter­ests of the Repub­lic of Belarus if dis­sem­i­nat­ed” was added to its func­tions. (No expla­na­tion regard­ing the con­tent of this con­cept was pro­vid­ed. How­ev­er, it is obvi­ous that it is broad­er than the con­cept of “extrem­ism”.),
    • the Pro­vi­sions on the pro­ce­dure for eval­u­at­ing sym­bols, para­pher­na­lia, and infor­ma­tion prod­ucts was adopt­ed. Among oth­er things, they intro­duced the algo­ry­thm for appeal­ing the deci­sions, which had been tak­en by the expert com­mis­sions. How­ev­er, such com­plaints can be filed only by the gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies that sub­mit­ted the cor­re­spond­ing appli­ca­tions to the rel­e­vant com­mis­sion and do not agree with its con­clu­sion. Accord­ing to the Pro­vi­sions, the sub­mit­ted media pro­duc­tion can be eval­u­at­ed both by sev­er­al and one expert com­mis­sion mem­ber or spe­cial­ist.




    16 court ver­dicts were pro­nounced against jour­nal­ists in crim­i­nal cas­es dur­ing the year of 2023. More­over, crim­i­nal cas­es were filed against 10 more jour­nal­ists dur­ing the same peri­od.

    Report­ed­ly, the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs filed a crim­i­nal case against the orga­niz­ers and par­tic­i­pants of ‘We Care!’ char­i­ty marathon of sol­i­dar­i­ty with Belaru­sian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers on Octo­ber 3, 2023. The event was held with the sup­port of more than 20 inde­pen­dent media orga­ni­za­tions in July 2023. Bas­ing on the mate­ri­als, col­lect­ed by the agents of GUBAZiK (Main Direc­torate for Com­bat­ing Orga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Belarus), around 60 peo­ple from among the char­i­ty marathon orga­niz­ers and their assis­tants were labeled as sus­pects in the crim­i­nal case for the alleged “fund­ing of extrem­ist activ­i­ties”.

    The Belaru­sian author­i­ties start­ed fil­ing crim­i­nal cas­es against the peo­ple who left the coun­try to avoid per­se­cu­tion with­in the peri­od under review. (These crim­i­nal cas­es were held “in absen­tia”, i.e. with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of defen­dants.)

    Prac­ti­cal­ly any per­son can be accused of “facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties”, as it is enough to give an inter­view or com­ment to the media rec­og­nized as “extrem­ist for­ma­tions” to face crim­i­nal charges. The rel­a­tives of exiled media work­ers were sub­ject­ed to harass­ment and pres­sure in 2023. In par­tic­u­lar, the author­i­ties con­duct­ed search­es at the media work­ers’ places of reg­is­tra­tion, and their pri­vate prop­er­ty was inven­to­ried or seized.

    It was reg­is­tered for the first time that a jour­nal­ist’s real estate was seized. Ihar Kazmier­chak, the edi­tor of ORSHA.EU inde­pen­dent news Web­site learnt that his apart­ment in Belarus had been seized by the regime in pow­er. Pre­sum­ably, the prop­er­ty was seized as part of crim­i­nal charges, faced by the media work­er for the alleged ‘insult of Pres­i­dent of Belarus’ in 2022. Also, the author­i­ties inven­tor­ized the pri­vate prop­er­ty, owned by a jour­nal­ist from Hrod­na Uladz­imir Khilmanovich.

    32 jour­nal­ists were in jail at the end of 2023. The list of such media work­ers includ­ed the heads of TUT.by News Por­tal Mary­na Zolata­va and Lyud­mi­la Chek­ina, both sen­tenced to 12 years in prison as well as a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist and edi­tor of the “Belaru­sian Year­book” peri­od­i­cal Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va, sen­tenced to 10 years in prison.

    Jour­nal­ists were sub­ject­ed to pres­sure and inhu­mane treat­ment in cus­tody.

    Report­ed­ly, Siarhei Sat­suk, Dzia­n­is Ivashyn, and Andrzej Pochobut faced prob­lems with obtain­ing med­ica­tions and access­ing qual­i­fied med­ical care in 2023. Dzia­n­is Ivashyn’s rel­a­tives report­ed that they were forced to stop spread­ing infor­ma­tion about the journalist’s con­di­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, they were threat­ened with the ter­mi­na­tion of any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with him. On July 18, 2023, it became known that Dzia­n­is Ivashyn had been trans­ferred from the colony to a strict regime prison by a court deci­sion. Nei­ther the journalist’s lawyer, not his rel­a­tives were aware of the tri­al or its cir­cum­stances.

    Accord­ing to human rights activists, Ihar Losik, a for­mer employ­ee of Radio Lib­er­ty went on a hunger strike for a long peri­od of time, while being in the Navap­o­latsk Penal Colony. Then, he cut his hands and neck. And con­se­quent­ly, he was tak­en to the prison hos­pi­tal. It was report­ed in Octo­ber 2023, that he had spent at least 6 months in cell-type premis­es of Navap­o­latsk Penal Colony No.1. It means that he was pro­hib­it­ed from meet­ing lawyers and rel­a­tives, as well as banned access to any cor­re­spon­dence.

    A blog­ger Uladz­imir Tsy­hanovich (Moz­gON YouTube Channel’s author) has spent almost three years in jail serv­ing the ini­tial prison term. On April 10, 2023, he was con­vict­ed sup­ple­men­tary under Arti­cle 411 of the Crim­i­nal Code for ‘mali­cious dis­obe­di­ence to the require­ments of the penal colony admin­is­tra­tion’. Con­se­quent­ly, one more year was added to the ini­tial­ly pro­nounced ver­dict of 15 years in prison.

    A blog­ger from Pin­sk Mikalai Klimovich, 61, died in Vit­seb­sk Penal Colony No.3 on May 7, 2023. At the end of Feb­ru­ary 2023, he was sen­tenced to one year in prison on charges of ‘insult­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus’, while he had a very seri­ous heart con­di­tion, which the court was aware of.

    The case of Andrzej Poc­zobut

    On Feb­ru­ary 8, 2023, the Hrod­na Region­al Court sen­tenced Andrzej Poc­zobut, a jour­nal­ist from Hrod­na and a mem­ber of the non-reg­is­tered Union of Poles of Belarus, to 8 years of impris­on­ment on charges of ‘incit­ing enmi­ty’ and ‘call­ing for sanc­tions’ (Arti­cles 130 and 361 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus, respec­tive­ly).

    Accord­ing to the indict­ment, the jour­nal­ist regard­ed the USSR’s attack on Poland in 1939 as aggres­sion, spoke out in defense of the Pol­ish minor­i­ty in Belarus, pub­lished arti­cles in Gaze­ta Wybor­cza about the Belaru­sian protests in 2020 and a text in Mag­a­zyn Pol­s­ki, ded­i­cat­ed to the his­to­ry of the Pol­ish anti-com­mu­nist under­ground move­ment in Hrod­na region. Andrzej Poc­zobut was arrest­ed togeth­er with sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers of the Union of Poles of Belarus on March 25, 2021, and placed in cus­tody.

    Accord­ing to the offi­cial ver­sion, since 2018 the mem­bers of the Union of Poles held a series of ille­gal events with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of minors in Hrod­na and oth­er cities of the region “to hon­our mem­bers of anti-Sovi­et gangs who act­ed dur­ing and after the Great Patri­ot­ic War, com­mit­ting rob­bery, killing peace­ful pop­u­la­tion of Belarus, destruc­t­ing prop­er­ty”. These actions of the author­i­ties took place against the back­ground of the anti-Pol­ish pro­pa­gan­da spread by the state media, which described Poland as an aggres­sor that alleged­ly had ter­ri­to­r­i­al claims to the Repub­lic of Belarus. In August 2022, Andrzej Poc­zobut faced a new charge: he was addi­tion­al­ly con­vict­ed with “call­ing for restric­tive mea­sures (sanc­tions), alleged­ly, aimed at caus­ing dam­age to nation­al secu­ri­ty”.


    The case of Mary­na Zolata­va and Liud­mi­la Chek­ina

    On March 17, 2023, Mary­na Zolata­va, Edi­tor-in-chief, TUT.BY News Por­tal and Liud­mi­la Chek­ina, Direc­tor Gen­er­al, TUT.BY News Por­tal were sen­tenced to 12 years of impris­on­ment each. More­over, L. Chek­ina was oblig­ed to pay a fine of BYN 37,000 (around USD 12,000). Both of them were charged under Arti­cle 130, part 3 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus (‘incit­ing racial, nation­al, reli­gious or oth­er social hatred or enmi­ty based on racial, nation­al, reli­gious, lin­guis­tic or oth­er social affil­i­a­tion, com­mit­ted by a group of per­sons or which result­ed in seri­ous con­se­quences’) and Arti­cle 361, part 3 (‘calls for actions aimed at harm­ing the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Repub­lic of Belarus, car­ried out with the use of mass media or the glob­al Inter­net’).

    Accord­ing to the indict­ment, the jour­nal­ists were direct­ly involved in the pub­li­ca­tion of mate­ri­als that con­tained “the delib­er­ate­ly pos­i­tive assess­ment of the actions of oppo­nents of the gov­ern­ment, the know­ing­ly neg­a­tive reflec­tion of the deci­sions of offi­cials who were in favor of pre­serv­ing the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tion­al order, the hid­den coor­di­na­tion of protest activ­i­ty in soci­ety, as well as the infor­ma­tion aimed at desta­bi­liz­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try and caus­ing dam­age to the nation­al secu­ri­ty of Belarus”.

    Liud­mi­la Chek­ina was also charged with ‘large scale tax eva­sion’ (Arti­cle 243, part 2 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus). The tri­al took place behind closed doors.

    Zolata­va and Chek­ina were detained togeth­er with 11 more TUT.BY employ­ees on May 18, 2021, when the Belaru­sian author­i­ties launched an unprece­dent­ed attack on the most influ­en­tial news Web-resource in Belarus. A crim­i­nal case was filed for tax eva­sion on a par­tic­u­lar­ly large scale (Arti­cle 243 of the Crim­i­nal Code). Alleged­ly, being a res­i­dent of the Hi-Tech Park, TUT BY Media received rev­enues for about a year with­out hav­ing the right to do so.

    The com­pa­ny paid the dam­age, which had been cal­cu­lat­ed by the inves­ti­ga­tion after a while. The sum exceed­ed 1 mil­lion 120 thou­sand euros. Nine defen­dants in the case filed motions to be released from crim­i­nal lia­bil­i­ty, and their cas­es did not go to court. A new crim­i­nal case for “incit­ing hatred” was filed against the TUT.by employ­ees in Octo­ber 2021.

    The case of Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va

    On March 17, 2023, Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist, the founder and the edi­tor of ‘Our Opin­ion’ Web­site for expert com­mu­ni­ty as well as the edi­tor of ‘Belorusskiy Yezhed­nevnik’ Web-resource and the head of ‘Belarus in Focus’ mon­i­tor­ing expert group was sen­tenced to 10 years of impris­on­ment togeth­er with a researcher Tat­siana Kuz­i­na. The author­i­ties charged her on the grounds of three arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus:  Arti­cle 357 (‘facil­i­ta­tion of activ­i­ties, aimed at seiz­ing pow­er’), Arti­cle 361 (‘call­ing for acts aimed at harm­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty’), and Arti­cle 130 (‘incit­ing oth­er social enmi­ty’).

    She was detained by the KGB agents on June 30, 2021. The arrest was pre­ced­ed by her speech on Euro­ra­dio, where she answered ques­tions about whether it would be pos­si­ble to achieve the release of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers through sanc­tions and whether a split with the West would pro­voke a rapid deep­en­ing of Belarus’ inte­gra­tion with Rus­sia. She has been in cus­tody since then.

    The case of Henadz Mazhey­ka

    On March 23, 2023, Henadz Mazhey­ka, a jour­nal­ist of ‘Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da in Belarus’ was sen­tenced to three years in prison. (The news­pa­per reporter had been detained in Moscow and deport­ed to Belarus in Octo­ber 2021.)

    The per­se­cu­tion was caused by a pub­li­ca­tion on the KP.BY Web­site, where a com­put­er pro­gram­mer Andrei Zeltser, who shot down a KGB offi­cer and got mur­dered him­self at the thresh­old of his pri­vate apart­ment, was pos­i­tive­ly char­ac­ter­ized by his for­mer class­mate.

    Although the news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al delet­ed the text in sev­er­al min­utes after its pub­li­ca­tion, the Web­site KP.BY was blocked on deci­sion of Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of Belarus in con­nec­tion with pub­lish­ing infor­ma­tion that, alleged­ly, ‘facil­i­tates form­ing the sources of threats to the nation­al secu­ri­ty’. Henadz Mazhey­ka was pre­sent­ed charges under two arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus – Arti­cle 130 (‘incit­ing the racial, nation­al, reli­bi­ous or oth­er social enmi­ty) and Arti­cle 368 (‘an insult to the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus’). The jour­nal­ist was released from prison in Novem­ber 2023.

    The case of Kanstantsin Zalatych

    On April 6, 2023, Kanstantsin Zalatych, direc­tor of ‘Belorusy I Rynok’ news­pa­per was sen­tenced to four years in prison. His case was con­sid­ered behind closed doors. He was charged with com­mit­ting the crimes, men­tioned in four arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus: Arti­cle 426 (‘exceed­ing author­i­ty or duties’), Arti­cle 130 (‘incit­ing racial, nation­al, reli­gious or oth­er social enmi­ty’), Arti­cle 369 (‘insult­ing a gov­ern­men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tive), and Arti­cle 368 (‘insult­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus’).

    The case of Yauhien Merkis

    On May 30, 2023, Homiel Region­al Court announced the ver­dict to Yauhien Merkis, a local free­lance jour­nal­ist and his­to­ri­an, who used to col­lab­o­rate with the ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel. He was sen­tenced to 4 years in prison in a strict regime colony under Art. 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus (‘assis­tance to extrem­ist activ­i­ties’), as well as Art. 361–1 (‘par­tic­i­pa­tion in an extrem­ist for­ma­tion’). The exact cir­cum­stances of the case are unknown since the tri­al was held behind closed doors. The jour­nal­ist was detained on Sep­tem­ber 13, 2022.

    The case of Dzmit­ry Sem­chanka

    On March 23, 2023, Dzmit­ry Sem­chanka, a for­mer employ­ee of the state ANT TV chan­nel was sen­tenced to three years in prison under Arti­cle 130 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘incit­ing enmi­ty’). It should be men­tioned that he used to be the head of the pres­i­den­tial pool of jour­nal­ists. How­ev­er, he resigned in protest against vio­lence in August 2020. The jour­nal­ist was crim­i­nal­ly charged for pub­li­ca­tions in “Vkon­tak­te” and Insta­gram, which in the judge’s opin­ion were aimed at “form­ing a neg­a­tive stereo­type and under­min­ing trust in law enforce­ment offi­cers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the author­i­ties, and ulti­mate­ly weak­en­ing the cur­rent sys­tem of gov­er­nance.”

    The case of Pavel Mazhei­ka

    On July 26, 2023, Hrod­na Region­al Court sen­tenced a jour­nal­ist Pavel Mazhei­ka and an attor­ney Yulia Yurhile­vich to six years of impris­on­ment in the strict and com­mon regime colonies, respec­tive­ly. They were found guilty of facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties repeat­ed­ly (Arti­cle 361–4 of Belarus Crim­i­nal Code). The court estab­lished that Pavel Mazhei­ka post­ed infor­ma­tion on Bel­sat TV chan­nel, which he had received from Yulia Yurgile­vich, about her res­ig­na­tion from the bar of attor­neys and about the ver­dict against the artist Ales Pushkin. The jour­nal­ist was detained fol­low­ing his return to Belarus on August 30, 2022.

    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Lychau­ka and Sni­azhana Inanets

    The spouse jour­nal­ists Ali­ak­san­dr Lychau­ka and Sni­azhana Inanets were charged under Arti­cle 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘arrange­ment and prepa­ra­tion of actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order, or active par­tic­i­pa­tion in them’) in con­nec­tion with their par­tic­i­pa­tion in protests in 2020 and sub­scrip­tion to “destruc­tive” Telegram chan­nels and sen­tenced to three and two years of restric­tion of lib­er­ty with­out being sent to an open-type cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty (“home con­fine­ment”), respec­tive­ly.

    Both of them were detained on Octo­ber 6, 2022.

    The case of Andrei Famin

    Andrei Famin was sen­tenced to sev­en years in a strict regime colony on June 21, 2023 after being detained on Octo­ber 26, 2022. He con­fessed that he was the edi­tor and author of arti­cles for a net­work of ‘Ves­ni­ki’ civ­il protest news­pa­pers, pub­lished and dis­trib­uted by activists of local ini­tia­tives. Con­se­quent­ly, he was pre­sent­ed charges under three arti­cles of Belarus Crim­i­nal Code, name­ly, Arti­cle 361 (‘calls to sanc­tions’), Arti­cle 342 (‘par­tic­i­pa­tion in actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order’), and Arti­cle 361–1 (‘estab­lish­ment of an extrem­ist for­ma­tion’).


    The case of Larysa Shchyrako­va

    Larysa Shchyrako­va, a for­mer free­lance jour­nal­ist, who used to col­lab­o­rate with the ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel, was detained in Homiel on Decem­ber 6, 2022. The same day, her son Svi­ataslau was tak­en to a social shel­ter for chil­dren until his father could see him and take him back home on col­lect­ing the nec­es­sary paper­work, on Decem­ber 23, 2022.

    On 31 August, 2023, the jour­nal­ist, local his­to­ri­an and cul­tur­al activist Larysa Shchyrako­va was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced by Homel Region­al Court to 3.5 years in a gen­er­al-secu­ri­ty penal colony. She was also fined 100 base amounts (approx. 1,365 euros).

    The con­vic­tion was based on Arti­cle 369–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘dis­cred­it­ing the Repub­lic of Belarus’), Part 1 and Part 2 of Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘pro­mo­tion of extrem­ist activ­i­ty and the same action car­ried out repeat­ed­ly’).

    Accord­ing to the inves­ti­ga­tion mate­ri­als, Larysa Shchyrako­va “from August 2020 to Decem­ber 2022, using the tense pub­lic sit­u­a­tion and seek­ing to desta­bi­lize the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, post­ed mate­ri­als with delib­er­ate­ly false data that dis­cred­it­ed the Repub­lic of Belarus.”

    The case of Pavel Pad­abed

    Pavel Pad­abed, a jour­nal­ist and a cam­er­ap­er­son from Min­sk, who coop­er­at­ed with a num­ber of inde­pen­dent media, has been crim­i­nal­ly charged for being part of an extrem­ist for­ma­tion (Arti­cle 361–1 of Belarus Crim­i­nal Code). He was detained on Jan­u­ary 20, 2023. Con­se­quent­ly, he was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to four years of impris­on­ment by Min­sk City Court on June 30, 2023,

    The case of Viachaslau Laza­rau and Tat­siana Pyt­sko

    A jour­nal­ist from Vit­sieb­sk Viachaslau Laza­rau was detained on Feb­ru­ary 9, 2023.

    As report­ed lat­er, he was accused of ‘facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties’ (Arti­cle 361–4 parts 1–2 of the Crim­i­nal Code). His wife Tat­siana Pyt­sko was detained on June 6, 2023. Tat­siana and Vyachaslau’s daugh­ter, who was a year and a month old at the time of her mother’s deten­tion, was placed under the care of the state and sent to a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal. Her grand­moth­er was allowed to take the baby back home some time lat­er. Tat­siana Pyt­sko was indict­ed under Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘estab­lish­ment or par­tic­i­pa­tion in an extrem­ist for­ma­tion’) in con­nec­tion with her alleged col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel.

    Legal inves­ti­ga­tors found video footage in the cameraman’s archive, where Tat­siana Pyt­sko was also present, which enabled the inves­ti­ga­tion to con­clude that she took part in the activ­i­ties of the extrem­ist for­ma­tion.

    On Sep­tem­ber 25, 2023, Viachaslau Laza­rau was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to five and a half years of impris­on­ment in a high secu­ri­ty penal colony, and his wife was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to three years of impris­on­ment in a gen­er­al regime prison colony.

    On Novem­ber 21–22, 2023, the impris­oned cou­ple of jour­nal­ists appealed the ini­tial court ver­dict of Vit­seb­sk Region­al Court in the Supreme Court of Belarus. Con­se­quent­ly, the charges were amend­ed to part 3 of Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code. Due to this change of charges, Viachaslau Lazarau’s term of impris­on­ment was reduced by half a year – to 5 years in prison. And his spouse Tat­siana Pyt­sko got the same pun­ish­ment con­firmed in the form of three years of impris­on­ment. How­ev­er, the sen­tence exe­cu­tion was sus­pend­ed for three years that allowed her to stay at home with cer­tain restric­tions.

    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Mant­se­vich

    On Novem­ber 3, 2023, Ali­ak­san­dr Mant­se­vich, the for­mer edi­tor-in-chief of “Rehiyanal­naya Gaze­ta” (Mal­adzech­na) was sen­tenced to 4 years in prison and a fine of 14,800 Belaru­sian rubles (approx­i­mate­ly 4,350 euros), alleged­ly for dis­cred­it­ing the Repub­lic of Belarus (Arti­cle 369–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code).

    The jour­nal­ist was detained after a search of his house in Vilei­ka (Min­sk region) on March 15, 2023. And he has been kept behind bars since then. Accord­ing to the indict­ment, alleged­ly, he dis­trib­uted false infor­ma­tion in coop­er­a­tion with oth­er indi­vid­u­als in the print­ed edi­tion and the affil­i­at­ed Web-resources that defamed the Belaru­sian state and its author­i­ties.


    The case of Ali­ak­san­dr Ziank­ou

    Ali­ak­san­dr Ziank­ou, a pho­tog­ra­ph­er from Barysau (Min­sk region) was detained on June 22, 2023. The law enforce­ment agents con­duct­ed a search in his house and seized his com­put­er equip­ment. Con­se­quent­ly, Ziank­ou was tak­en to Min­sk, where he was placed in a pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter. He was charged under Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘par­tic­i­pa­tion in an extrem­ist for­ma­tion’). Alleged­ly, his video footage was shown on one of the resources rec­og­nized as an extrem­ist for­ma­tion. On Jan­u­ary 30, 2024, Min­sk City Court con­vict­ed Ali­ak­san­dr Ziank­ou and sen­tenced him to three years of impris­on­ment.

    The case of Ihar Karnei

    A free­lance jour­nal­ist Ihar Karnei was detained in Min­sk on July 17, 2023.  He is an author of texts about the cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal her­itage of Belarus as well as a trav­el blog­ger.

    At first, he was sen­tenced to 10 days of admin­is­tra­tive arrest. Then, he was trans­ferred to a pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­tre. At the begin­ning, it was not known what exact­ly Ihar Karnei was accused of, as his lawyer was under a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment.

    Min­sk City Court began con­sid­er­ing his case on March 19, 2024. Con­se­quent­ly, Ihar Karnei was charged with join­ing an extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion with the intent of com­mit­ting an extrem­ist crime (Arti­cle 361–1, part 3 of the Crim­i­nal Code).

    Accord­ing to the indict­ment, alleged­ly, Ihar “insult­ed the pres­i­dent and gov­ern­ment offi­cials, jour­nal­ists, and oth­er cit­i­zens as well as report­ed false infor­ma­tion about the eco­nom­ic, social, mil­i­tary, and inter­na­tion­al sit­u­a­tion of the Repub­lic of Belarus in his neg­a­tive jour­nal­is­tic mate­ri­als” for BAJ.


    The case of Andrei Tolchyn

    A for­mer free­lance jour­nal­ist Andrei Tolchyn was detained and indict­ed under Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘cre­at­ing an extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion or par­tic­i­pat­ing in it’) in Homiel on Sep­tem­ber 23, 2023. As a cam­er­ap­er­son, he used to coop­er­ate with inde­pen­dent media resources, includ­ing the Bel­sat TV chan­nel, for ten years.

    Andrei Tolchyn was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to 2.5 years of impris­on­ment on March 21, 2024.

    The case of Dzia­n­is Dashke­vich

    The house of jour­nal­ist Dzia­n­is Dashke­vich was searched in Raha­chou, Mahilou region at the begin­ning of Octo­ber 2023. (The media work­er is cur­rent­ly out­side of Belarus.)  Since this was not the first inci­dent of this kind, the police­men who were look­ing for the infor­ma­tion car­ri­ers did not seize any­thing this time. The prosecutor’s order was giv­en to the journalist’s wife. Accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, it appeared that the search was con­duct­ed in con­nec­tion with sev­er­al crim­i­nal cas­es. Accord­ing to Dashke­vich, the list of accu­sa­tions includ­ed “facil­i­tat­ing an extrem­ist for­ma­tion”,
    insult­ing the pres­i­dent and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the gov­ern­ment”, “dis­cred­it­ing the Repub­lic of Belarus” and “spread­ing per­son­al data on the Inter­net”.

    The case of Uladz­imir Khilmanovich (‘in absen­tia’)

    On Decem­ber 1, 2023, a police search was con­duct­ed in the apart­ment, owned by the wife of the jour­nal­ist and human rights activist Uladz­imir Khilmanovich, in Hrod­na, where the lat­ter used to live in 2014–2021. Uladz­imir Khilmanovich has been resid­ing out­side of Belarus for 2.5 years. Report­ed­ly, a crim­i­nal case was filed against him under parts 1 and 2 of Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus (‘facil­i­ta­tion of extrem­ist activ­i­ties’). The legal inves­tiga­tive bod­ies draft­ed a res­o­lu­tion on the seizure of his prop­er­ty, name­ly fur­ni­ture and house­hold appli­ances.

    It became known that a crim­i­nal case was filed against him under parts 1 and 2 of Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties’). Inves­tiga­tive bod­ies draft­ed a res­o­lu­tion on the seizure of prop­er­ty (fur­ni­ture and house­hold appli­ances).

    The case of Ales Sabaleus­ki

    A for­mer blog­ger and jour­nal­ist from Mahilou Ales (Ali­ak­san­dr) Sabaleus­ki was detained in his home city on Decem­ber 12, 2023. He used to coop­er­ate with a num­ber of inde­pen­dent region­al pub­li­ca­tions.

    The jour­nal­ist was sen­tenced twice to admin­is­tra­tive arrest. Then, report­ed­ly, Ales Sabaleus­ki was trans­ferred to a pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter and a crim­i­nal case was filed against him. The crim­i­nal case is prob­a­bly relat­ed to the label­ing of region­al media resources, includ­ing ‘6TV Belarus’ YouTube chan­nel and ‘Mahilou. Media’ Region­al News Web­site as ‘extrem­ist for­ma­tions’ by the regime in pow­er.

    The case of ‘Ranak’ TV com­pa­ny

    On Decem­ber 14, 2023, the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Belarus offi­cial­ly announced the fil­ing of a crim­i­nal case “for the estab­lish­ment of an extrem­ist for­ma­tion” in con­nec­tion with the activ­i­ties of ‘Ranak’ TV and Radio com­pa­ny from Svet­la­horsk in Homiel region. For­mer employ­ees of ‘Ranak’ TV and Radio com­pa­ny Yulia Daule­ta­va and Liud­mi­la Anden­ka were detained in the frame­work of the crim­i­nal case, filed under Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code. Both were released from cus­tody on recog­ni­zance not to leave the place of their res­i­dence some time lat­er. The for­mer edi­tor Andrei Lip­s­ki was the third con­vict­ed per­son in the group. How­ev­er, he had already been abroad by the moment when the deten­tions took place.

    Accord­ing to the legal inves­ti­ga­tors, the con­vict­ed indi­vid­u­als “cre­at­ed and admin­is­tered a Telegram group, which pub­lished infor­ma­tion aimed at orga­niz­ing, prepar­ing and com­mit­ting mass riots, resist­ing law enforce­ment offi­cers with the aim of encroach­ing on the country’s inde­pen­dence, ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, and the foun­da­tions of its con­sti­tu­tion­al order in 2020. The destruc­tive ideas were pro­mot­ed through the infor­ma­tion resources of the TV and Radio com­pa­ny”. (See also: “Pres­sure on jour­nal­ists and mass media).


    The case of Pavel Maryn­ich (‘in absen­tia’)  

    A crim­i­nal case was filed against the head of “Malan­ka Media” Pavel Maryn­ich in Decem­ber 2023. Togeth­er with three oth­er peo­ple, he was charged under Arti­cle 191, part 2 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘obstruc­tion of the work of the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, as well as the com­mis­sions on the ref­er­en­dum, car­ried out with the use of threats and oth­er means, by a group of per­sons with a pri­or con­spir­a­cy’):

    Alleged­ly, the group of peo­ple devel­oped and imple­ment­ed a plan of ille­gal actions to dis­rupt the nation­al ref­er­en­dum on amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion of Belarus in 2022. On March 18, 2024, all four defen­dants were con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to 4 years in prison. The court con­sid­ered the case in the order of spe­cial pro­ceed­ings (‘in absen­tia’), since all the defen­dants cur­rent­ly reside out­side of Belarus.

    Pros­e­cu­tion of blog­gers

    Five admin­is­tra­tors of the ‘Black Book of Belarus’ Telegram chan­nel were con­vict­ed and sen­tenced in absen­tia to 12 years in prison each on Jan­u­ary 18, 2023. The list of pros­e­cut­ed blog­gers includ­ed Zmit­si­er Navosha, a civ­il soci­ety activist, a jour­nal­ist, and a co-founder of pop­u­lar sport Web-resources Tribuna.com and Sports.ru.

    The crim­i­nal cas­es were filed by the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee of Belarus on Arti­cle 130 (‘incite­ment of hos­til­i­ty’) and Arti­cle 203–1 (‘ille­gal col­lec­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of per­son­al data’) of the Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus. It was the first case of appli­ca­tion of the insti­tu­tion of “spe­cial court pro­ceed­ings” (con­vic­tion of polit­i­cal emi­grants in absen­tia).

    Mikalai Klimovich, a blog­ger from Pin­sk, 69, died after two weeks of con­fine­ment in Viteb­sk Penal Colony No. 3 on May 7, 2023. On Feb­ru­ary 28, 2023, he had been con­vict­ed under Arti­cle 368 of Crim­i­nal Code and sen­tenced to one year in prison on charges of “insult­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus” for a polit­i­cal car­i­ca­ture of Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka, “revealed” by legal inves­ti­ga­tors in his social media. The blog­ger had a seri­ous heart con­di­tion, which was known to the court.

    A court ver­dict was announced in the crim­i­nal case against Dzmit­ry Harbunou, a local civ­il soci­ety activist and blog­ger in Brest on March 17, 2023. He was con­vict­ed under Arti­cle 368 (‘insult­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus’) and Arti­cle 369 (‘insult­ing a gov­ern­men­tal offi­cial’) of Crim­i­nal Code of Belarus and was sen­tenced to one and a half years in prison. The crim­i­nal charges were relat­ed to the mes­sages that Har­bunou had made two years ear­li­er on social media.

    Sev­er­al new crim­i­nal cas­es were filed against Ali­ak­san­dr Kabanau, a blog­ger and ex-polit­i­cal pris­on­er from Brest in March 2023. The new devel­op­ment became known due to the fact that law enforce­ment offi­cials searched his par­ents’ house.

    On May 3, 2023, a ver­dict was pro­nounced in absen­tia in the crim­i­nal case of well-known blog­gers, who edit­ed the ‘Nex­ta’ and ‘Belarus of the Brain’ Telegram chan­nels.

    The court stat­ed that the indict­ed Stsi­a­pan Put­si­la, Yan Rudzik, and Raman Prata­se­vich were direct­ly involved in the arrange­ment of mass riots, which were accom­pa­nied by arson, pogroms, block­ing the oper­a­tion of trans­port, as well as inten­tion­al incite­ment of social enmi­ty and calls to com­mit ter­ror­ist acts dur­ing the 2020 elec­tion cam­paign. Since the used Web-resources were rec­og­nized by the author­i­ties as “extrem­ist for­ma­tions”, their man­age­ment incurred addi­tion­al crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty.

    Stsi­a­pan Put­si­la was sen­tenced to 20 years of impris­on­ment in a high secu­ri­ty colony and Yan Rudzik was sen­tenced to 19 years in prison. (Both of them were con­vict­ed in absen­tia since they reside out­side of Belarus.) Raman Prata­se­vich was the only defen­dant, who was present dur­ing the tri­al in the court room. Since the lat­ter col­lab­o­rat­ed with the legal inves­ti­ga­tion “in the undis­put­ed man­ner”, he was sen­tenced to 8 years in a gen­er­al regime penal colony. And con­se­quent­ly, he was par­doned by Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka on May 22, 2023.

    Dzmit­ry Selvyas­truk, a sports blog­ger and author of the “Sil­ver Age. Foot­ball of Belarus” Telegram chan­nel was detained and lat­er charged under Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties’) on May 10, 2023. Human rights defend­ers learned that the last court hear­ing in this case took place at the end of Sep­tem­ber 2023. How­ev­er, the court ver­dict remained unknown.

    On Decem­ber 8, 2023, Dzmit­ry Selvyas­truk was includ­ed in the “list of extrem­ists” by the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Belarus.

    Ali­ak­san­dr Ihnat­siuk, the author of ‘About Stolin’ blog and the for­mer edi­tor of ‘Vech­erniy Stolin’ inde­pen­dent dis­trict news­pa­per was detained and placed in cus­tody on charges under Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code (‘facil­i­tat­ing extrem­ist activ­i­ties’) on July 18, 2023. The tri­al ses­sion start­ed on March 15, 2024. Dur­ing the tri­al, it became known that he was charged under three arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code: Arti­cle 367, part 2 (‘defama­tion of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus, com­mit­ted by a per­son who has already been tried for defama­tion or insult’), Arti­cle 342, part 1 (‘arrange­ment and prepa­ra­tion of actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order or active par­tic­i­pa­tion in them’), as well as Arti­cle 208, parts 1 and 2 (black­mail­ing; black­mail­ing com­mit­ted repeat­ed­ly, or by a group of indi­vid­u­als by pri­or agree­ment, or with the use of vio­lence that does not pose a dan­ger to the life or health of the vic­tim, or under the threat of killing or caus­ing seri­ous bod­i­ly harm, or com­bined with the destruc­tion or dam­age of prop­er­ty, or for the pur­pose of obtain­ing mate­r­i­al ben­e­fit in a large amount’).


    Pres­sure on Jour­nal­ists and Mass Media

    Accord­ing to the BAJ’s cal­cu­la­tions, jour­nal­ists were arrest­ed 16 times on admin­is­tra­tive charges in 2023.

    All in all, it was reg­is­tered that jour­nal­ists were detained 46 times, and 34 search­es were con­duct­ed in their homes and offices in 2023.

    Thus, in Feb­ru­ary 2023, a search with sezure of tech­ni­cal equip­ment took place in the edi­to­r­i­al office of “Intex-press” news­pa­per (Baranavichy, Brest region).

    Mass search­es and deten­tions of inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists were also reg­is­tered all over the coun­try in March 2023. In par­tic­u­lar, the search­es and arrests took place in the edi­to­r­i­al offices of “Infa-Kury­er” (Slut­sk, Min­sk region), and “Rehіyanal­naya Gaze­ta” (Mal­adziech­na, Min­sk region) region­al news­pa­pers. The pres­sure on the media out­lets was of com­plex char­ac­ter, which had been applied by Belaru­sian author­i­ties ear­li­er. It includ­ed search­es, deten­tions and admin­is­tra­tive per­se­cu­tion of employ­ees, seizure of tech­ni­cal equip­ment, ban on dis­tri­b­u­tion, defam­ing in pro-gov­ern­men­tal media, and recog­ni­tion of pub­li­ca­tions as “extrem­ist mate­ri­als.” Con­se­quent­ly, all these media out­lets were forced to cease their activ­i­ties.

    Since June 2023, the author­i­ties start­ed ruin­ing the ‘Ranak’ pri­vate TV and Radio com­pa­ny in the city of Svet­la­horsk (Homiel region). They con­duct­ed a search in the edi­to­r­i­al office and pros­e­cut­ed nine of its employ­ees, includ­ing the edi­tor Andrei Lip­s­ki, on admin­is­tra­tive charges. The TV com­pa­ny was rec­og­nized as an “extrem­ist for­ma­tion” lat­er. Con­se­quent­ly, three of its jour­nal­ists faced crim­i­nal charges.

    The ‘Ranak’ employ­ees’ sub­scrip­tion to a local group on ‘Odnok­lass­ni­ki’ social media was pre­sent­ed by the author­i­ties as the offi­cial rea­son for the admin­is­tra­tive pros­e­cu­tion. How­ev­er, most like­ly, the real motive was the TV company’s cov­er­age of the acci­dent at the Svet­la­horsk pulp and card­board mill, which hap­pened on June 7th and led to the death of three fac­to­ry work­ers.

    The male employ­ees were pun­ished with admin­is­tra­tive arrests, and female employ­ees were fined on the ground of the police pro­to­cols drawn up under Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offences. As soon as the employ­ees were detained, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion blocked access to the chan­nel’s web­site. On July 4, 2023, its con­tent was rec­og­nized as “extrem­ist mate­r­i­al.”

    The TV and Radio com­pa­ny was rec­og­nized as an “extrem­ist for­ma­tion”, and three of its jour­nal­ists were charged in a crim­i­nal case some time lat­er (see more in ‘Crim­i­nal Cas­es’).

    Two police­men came to the apart­ment of Homiel jour­nal­ist Ana­tol Hatouchyts to find out if he was sub­scribed to extrem­ist Telegram chan­nels in the evening on May 23, 2023. Since 2020, this was already the sixth vis­it by the police. Four of them were accom­pa­nied by search­es and seizure of tech­ni­cal equip­ment.

    The offi­cers from Ivat­se­vichy Police Depart­ment came to the house of the ‘Hantsav­it­s­ki Chas’ News Web­site (ganc-chas.by) edi­tor Pavel Dajlid on June 19, 2023 in the morn­ing. One of the offi­cers pro­posed him to fol­low them to the police sta­tion for “a talk” about the sit­u­a­tion, when a car with Russ­ian license plates was stopped in Ivat­se­vichy on June 17th. At the same time, the police offi­cer told Pavel Dajlid to take his phone with him.

    The police­man did not answer the edi­tor’s ques­tion about his pro­ce­dur­al sta­tus and the mat­ter of the meet­ing he was sum­moned for. How­ev­er, he not­ed that Pavel Dajlid was nei­ther a sus­pect nor a con­vict. Alleged­ly, some­one just want­ed “to have a talk” with him. When the edi­tor refused to go to the police with­out a writ and with­out a lawyer, the offi­cer called some­one and then they left the house with his col­leagues in a police car.

    On August 29, 2023, police offi­cers came to the house of Svi­at­lana Malysh­ka, a cor­re­spon­dent of the same “Hantsav­it­sky Chas” web­site and pro­posed her in a high­ly push­ing way to come with them for a “talk”. The jour­nal­ist learned at the police sta­tion that the call to the police depart­ment was caused by her arti­cle ‘Hantsavichy Down­town Turned Bold on the Eve of Prepa­ra­tions for Dazhyn­ki’. The police offi­cers dis­liked the title of this pub­li­ca­tion and claimed it was not true.

    On the same day, anoth­er employ­ee of “Hantsav­it­sky Chas” web­site Siarhei Bahrou was invit­ed to the police sta­tion, where he explained that he does not write arti­cles. Pre­sum­ably, the atten­tion of the police was caused by the dis­sat­is­fac­tion of the city author­i­ties due to the crit­i­cal cov­er­age of their actions. The chair­man of the Dis­trict Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee Uladz­imir Bialou and his deputy Siarhei Sarak­ou want­ed to talk with the “Hantsav­it­sky Chas” edi­to­r­i­al staff just on the eve of these events with the police. They took turns call­ing the “Hantsav­it­sky Chas” cor­re­spon­dents and express­ing their dis­sat­is­fac­tion. How­ev­er, they did not receive an answer regard­ing the authors of the crit­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions.

    Siarhei Hardziye­vich, a for­mer jour­nal­ist of “The First Region” web­site was detained at a check­point on the Belaru­sian-Pol­ish bor­der in Brest on Sep­tem­ber 14, 2023. He had been con­vict­ed and served a year and a half in prison ear­li­er. As soon as his phone was checked, he was tak­en into cus­tody and sen­tenced to 15 days of admin­is­tra­tive arrest under Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es (‘dis­sem­i­na­tion of extrem­ist mate­ri­als’) after­wards.

    Nadzeya Mali­nouskaya, the admin­is­tra­tor of “Vol­naye Hly­bokaye” region­al online publication’s social media was pun­ished with a fine of 4,440 Belaru­sian rubles on July 25, 2023. Also, her smart­phone was seized. She was penal­ized for the alleged ‘dis­tri­b­u­tion of extrem­ist mate­ri­als’ (Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es) in the form of repost­ing pub­li­ca­tions from the Bel­sat TV chan­nel on the “Vol­naye Hly­bokaye” Insta­gram account, as well as for plac­ing the Belaru­sian his­tor­i­cal nation­al sym­bols – the ‘Pur­suit’ coat of arms, a white-red-white flag and the “Long Live Belarus” inscrip­tion – In the pub­li­ca­tion’s Vkon­tak­te account, which was regard­ed as pick­et­ing (Arti­cle 24.23 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es).

    A pho­tog­ra­ph­er from Brest Vasil Pashaluk (“Vas­ka Pilot”) was fined 370 Belaru­sian rubles at the end of Octo­ber 2023. He was penal­ized for using his quad­copter for film­ing with­out pri­or per­mis­sion under Arti­cle 18.35 of the Civ­il Code (‘vio­la­tion of the air­space usage rules’) at the ini­tia­tive of the pros­e­cu­tor’s office. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er pro­duced a num­ber of video clips bas­ing on the footage for a state-owned orga­ni­za­tion and post­ed them on his YouTube chan­nel lat­er on.

    On Novem­ber 28, 2023, a search was car­ried out at Siarhei Chaly’s apart­ment in Belarus. The eco­nom­ic ana­lyst and host of the “Night with Chaly” YouTube project cur­rent­ly resides in exile out­side of Belarus. The search was for­mal­ly jus­ti­fied by his engage­ment in the activ­i­ties of the oppo­si­tion­al Coor­di­na­tion Coun­cil.

    \Law enforce­ment agents con­duct­ed search­es with seizure of tech­ni­cal equip­ment and mobile phones at six people’s hous­es in Mahilou region on Decem­ber 5–6, 2023. The search­es affect­ed for­mer edi­tor Barys Vyr­vich, as well as Ali­ak­san­dr Aheyeu, Ali­ak­sei Bat­siuk­ou, Ihar Sharukha, Piotr Mihurs­ki, and Siarhei Antonau. All these indi­vid­u­als used to be con­nect­ed this way or anoth­er with the local inde­pen­dent online pub­li­ca­tions ‘Mahilou.media’ and ‘6TV.by’, which were pre­vi­ous­ly labeled as ‘extrem­ist for­ma­tions’ by the regime in pow­er. Vyr­vich was tak­en to the police sta­tion for ques­tion­ing, but lat­er released.

    Also, the pri­vate apart­ment of jour­nal­ist Zmitser Lupach was searched in Hly­bokaye on Decem­ber 6, 2023. (The media work­er resides in exile nowa­days.) The police knocked out the entrance door since the apart­ment was emp­ty. After spend­ing some time in the journalist’s apart­ment, the police sealed it and left the build­ing.

    Since the autumn of 2023, the author­i­ties have focused their atten­tion on blog­gers who are not direct­ly involved in the polit­i­cal agen­da. Thus, it was report­ed about the arrests of influ­en­tial Min­sk blog­gers and media per­son­al­i­ties with­in the peri­od under review, includ­ing Han­na Bond, who served 15 days of admin­is­tra­tive arrest for “dis­obey­ing a police offi­cer,” Larysa Hry­balio­va, who is on the so-called “black­list” for con­demn­ing vio­lence in Belarus in 2020, and Dzia­n­is Kuryan even though none of them dwelt upon polit­i­cal issues in their work.

    It looks like the author­i­ties were try­ing to make sure that there were no out-of-con­trol influ­en­tial pub­lic fig­ures in the coun­try in the run-up to the sin­gle vot­ing day on Feb­ru­ary 25, 2024.

    Restric­tive mea­sures also affect­ed a for­eign jour­nal­ist Justy­na Prus, who used to work as a cor­re­spon­dent of the Pol­ish Infor­ma­tion Agency (PAP) in the coun­try since 2016. The KGB banned her from enter­ing Belarus for five years.



    The author­i­ties con­tin­ued large-scale per­se­cu­tion for dis­sent under the pre­text of fight­ing extrem­ism in the media space.

    The Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists and 15 inde­pen­dent media out­lets were labeled as “extrem­ist for­ma­tions” in Belarus in 2023. The num­ber of affect­ed media orga­ni­za­tions increased thrice in com­par­i­son with the pre­vi­ous year.

    It was for the first time that a for­eign media resource was includ­ed in the list of “extrem­ist for­ma­tions” by the Belaru­sian author­i­ties last year. These were the Telegram, YouTube and Tik­Tok accounts of the pop­u­lar Ukrain­ian blog­ger Alexan­der Rykov (Bal­aganOff). He pays sig­nif­i­cant atten­tion to the Belaru­sian issues in his videos.

    33 con­vict­ed media work­ers were includ­ed in the offi­cial list of “extrem­ists” and 12 impris­oned media work­ers were includ­ed in the list of “ter­ror­ists” in 2023.

    Accord­ing to a new trend, the ordi­nary cit­i­zens who com­ment­ed on any socio-polit­i­cal events for jour­nal­ists or col­lab­o­rat­ed in any oth­er way with the inde­pen­dent media, which had been labeled by the regime in pow­er as ‘extrem­ist for­ma­tions’, faced charges along­side the civ­il soci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Thus, Darya Losik, the wife of Radio Lib­er­ty employ­ee Ihar Losik, was sen­tenced to two years in prison in Jan­u­ary 2023 for an inter­view with the Bel­sat TV chan­nel about her husband’s sit­u­a­tion.

    Con­se­quent­ly, their four-year-old daugh­ter was left with­out par­ents. The kid’s grand­par­ents took care of their grand­child in their absense.

    The con­vict­ed jour­nal­ists Kseniya Lut­ski­na, Iry­na Leushy­na, Dzmit­ry Navazhy­lau, Andrei Ali­ak­san­drau (and his spouse Iry­na Zlobi­na), Sni­azhana Inanets and Ali­ak­san­dr Lychau­ka (a mar­ried cou­ple), Ali­ak­san­dr Liu­bianchuk, Dzmit­ry Luk­sha, Ivan Murauy­ou, Dzmit­ry Sem­chanka, Andrzej Poc­zobut, Henadz Mazhey­ka, Larysa Shchyrako­va, Yauhien Merkis, Pavel Pad­abied, Pavel Mazhey­ka, Andrei Famin, Viachaslau Laza­rau and his spouse Tat­siana Pyt­sko as well as the TUT.BY employ­ees Liud­mi­la Chek­ina and Mary­na Zolata­va, a colum­nist on mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal issues Yahor Lebi­adok, a sport media man­ag­er Dzmit­ry Navosha as well as blog­gers Stsi­a­pan Put­si­la, Yan Rudzik, Raman Prata­se­vich, and Dzmit­ry Selvi­as­truk were includ­ed in the list of indi­vid­u­als, who are alleged­ly ‘engaged in extrem­ist activ­i­ties’.

    The KGB includ­ed a polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Tat­siana Kuz­i­na, a jour­nal­ist Henadz Mazhey­ka, and the direc­tor of ‘Belaru­sian and Mar­ket’ news­pa­per Kanstantsin Zalatykh to the list of indi­vid­u­als, who are alleged­ly ‘engaged in ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties’.

    As before, the pub­li­ca­tions of inde­pen­dent media were fre­quent­ly includ­ed in the list of extrem­ist mate­ri­als. The media resources and online com­mu­ni­ties of the Belaru­sian dias­po­ra abroad were most often among them.

    In total, the courts rec­og­nized 1,721 media pro­duc­tion resources as “extrem­ist mate­ri­als” in 2023. (The absolute major­i­ty of these resources were includ­ed in the list for con­tain­ing “oppo­si­tion­al” opin­ions, except for sev­er­al resources with neo-Nazi con­tent). The list includes online resources of inde­pen­dent media, such as Tik­Tok accounts of ‘Nasha Niva’, ‘KYKY’, ‘Tribuna.by’, ‘Chest­nOK’, ‘Cur­rent Time. Belarus’,

    Telegram-каналы of ‘Hrodna.life’, ‘Ex-Press.by, the Web­site of ‘Pozirk’ media out­let, the Web­site and ‘VKon­tak­tie’ page of ‘Inform Progul­ka Luninets’ media out­let, Tik­Tok, Insta­gram and YouTube accounts of ‘Bel­sat’ TV, YouTube chan­nel of ‘Bela­Me­dia’ media out­let, Tik­Tok and ‘X’ accounts of ‘Novy Chas’ peri­od­i­cal, Insta­gram accounts of ‘TALK’ and ‘The First Region’ online-edi­tions, all social media and mes­sen­gers of ‘Radio Lib­er­ty’, ‘Sal­i­dar­nasts’ online news­pa­per, ‘Palat­no’ online peri­od­i­cal, ‘volkovysk.by’ News Web­site, ‘WARTA – Belaru­sian nation­al media’, ‘Hantsav­it­s­ki Chas’ news­pa­per, ‘Belaru­sian Radio Racy­ja’ and oth­ers.

    If ear­li­er the author­i­ties rec­og­nized main­ly online con­tent as ‘extrem­ist mate­ri­als’, then in 2023 they often began to label the arti­cles in print­ed pub­li­ca­tions as ‘extrem­ist’, too. The num­ber of deci­sions on the recog­ni­tion of books as well as per­son­al pages with crit­i­ciz­ing con­tent in social media as ‘extrem­ist’ sky­rock­et­ed in 2023. Thus, such deci­sions affect­ed the social media, owned by Rus­lan Kule­vich, the founder of the ‘Most’ media out­let from Bia­lystok, the Insta­gram account of the TV pre­sen­ter Kat­siary­na Pytl­e­va, the accounts of mod­ern Belaru­sian writer and poet Andrei Khadanovich and oth­ers).

    The books of the ‘Yanushke­vich’ pub­lish­ing house attract­ed spe­cial atten­tion of the author­i­ties. It was sub­ject­ed to repres­sion and forced to ter­mi­nate its activ­i­ties in Belarus. 15 books of this pub­lish­ing house were labeled as “extrem­ist mate­ri­als” by the regime in pow­er. It was for the first time that a fic­tion book – “Dogs of Europe” by Algerd Bakhare­vich – was men­tioned in the list.

    Refer­ring to Arti­cle 33 of the Law ‘On Pub­lish­ing Activ­i­ties’, the Eco­nom­ic Court of Min­sk deprived the ‘Yanushke­vich’ pub­lish­ing house of the right to pub­lish books at the request of the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion on Jan­u­ary 16, 2023. The deci­sion was rea­soned by the pub­li­ca­tion of books, which alleged­ly con­tained infor­ma­tion of extrem­ist nature, includig the “Dogs of Europe” nov­el by Algerd Bakhare­vich, the mono­graph on ‘The Agrar­i­an pol­i­cy of the Nazis in West­ern Belarus: Plan­ning. Secu­ri­ty. Imple­men­ta­tion (1941–1944)’ by Svi­at­lana Kazlo­va, and the Belaru­sian trans­la­tion of “The Bal­lad of a Lit­tle Tug­boat” poem by Iosif Brod­sky.

    The list was sup­ple­ment­ed by 4 more book edi­tions at the end of the year., It includ­ed two vol­umes of lit­er­ary works by the clas­sic of Belaru­sian lit­er­a­ture, Vin­cent Dunin-Martsinke­vich, in which some ‘extrem­ist’ poems were iden­ti­fied by the regime in pow­er.

    Quite a few mag­a­zine and news­pa­per arti­cles were out­lawed, too. Some of them were pub­lished almost 30 years ago. Thus, a num­ber of issues of “Arche Pachatak” and “Our His­to­ry” mag­a­zines, an issue of “Svabo­da” news­pa­per, pub­lished in 1997, six arti­cles from the “Infa-Kuri­er” print news­pa­per, pub­lished in 2020, as well as some oth­er pub­li­ca­tions were labeled as ‘extrem­ist’ by the regime in pow­er, too.

    The num­ber of cas­es of bring­ing peo­ple to admin­is­tra­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty under Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es (‘Dis­tri­b­u­tion, pro­duc­tion, stor­age, trans­porta­tion of infor­ma­tion prod­ucts con­tain­ing calls for extrem­ist activ­i­ty or pro­mot­ing such activ­i­ty’) has increased sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the begin­ning of 2023. (The repost­ing or shar­ing of such mate­ri­als has been regard­ed by the author­i­ties as a breach of the law.) The num­ber of con­vict­ed peo­ple under Arti­cle 19.11 increased 1.7 times in the first half of the year com­pared to the same peri­od in 2022 (at least 1274 vs 721 cas­es).

    Since almost all lead­ing inde­pen­dent media and oppo­si­tion­al media resources have been “banned” by the regime in pow­er, almost every­one can be held liable for dis­trib­ut­ing vir­tu­al­ly any infor­ma­tion that is not want­ed by the author­i­ties.

    Regard­less of how old the pub­li­ca­tion is, prac­ti­cal­ly any­one can be con­vict­ed for hav­ing it on the elec­tron­ic device. More and more peo­ple were pun­ished with admin­is­tra­tive arrests rather than fines in 2023.

    Accord­ing to human rights defend­ers’ reports, no less than 2952 indi­vid­u­als were con­vict­ed for dis­sem­i­na­tion of extrem­ist mate­ri­als in 2023.

    Courts con­tin­ued to pro­nounce ver­dicts for “dis­sem­i­na­tion of extrem­ist mate­ri­als” that includ­ed sub­scrip­tion to pro­hib­it­ed infor­ma­tion sources apart from pub­li­ca­tion or dis­tri­b­u­tion of cer­tain con­tent. As it was ‘explained’ on the YouTube chan­nel asso­ci­at­ed with the Belaru­sian secu­ri­ty forces, it is not for­mal­ly a crime to be sub­scribed to pro­hib­it­ed Web-resources. How­ev­er, it was not­ed, that “it is as clear as day that if a per­son is inter­est­ed in these kind of things, oth­er legal vio­la­tions will def­i­nite­ly be found. The for­mal absence of cor­pus delic­ti is not an excuse to ignore an offend­er.”

    A case of con­vic­tion ‘in absen­tia’ under the ‘extrem­ist’ Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es was reg­is­tered for the first time in 2023. On August 21, 2023, Iry­na Zyl, the judge of Raha­chou Dis­trict Court imposed a fine of 740 Belaru­sian rubles on the jour­nal­ist Dzia­n­is Dashke­vich from Raha­chou, who is cur­rent­ly out­side of Belarus. Also, she ruled to seize the ‘object of the offence’ for the media worker’s post­ing of sev­er­al pho­tos with the nation­al sym­bols of Belarus on the ‘Raha­chou Online’ online media resource.

    In addi­tion to the dis­tri­b­u­tion of con­tent from inde­pen­dent media and oppo­si­tion resources, ‘extrem­ist’ ref­er­ences in sci­en­tif­ic works, dis­tri­b­u­tion of pho­tos with a white-red-white flag, instal­la­tion of appli­ca­tions relat­ed to the banned news resources and send­ing infor­ma­tion to the feed­back bots of inde­pen­dent media were reg­is­tered as grounds for per­se­cu­tion in Belarus in 2023.

    Thus, e.g., the judge of Brest Region­al Court con­vict­ed and sen­tenced the Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen Kat­siary­na Brukhana­va to two and a half years of impris­on­ment for the alleged ‘facil­i­ta­tion of extrem­ist activ­i­ties’ (Arti­cle 361–4 of the Crim­i­nal Code), since she had sent two videos with mil­i­tary equip­ment to the chat­bot of the “Zerka­lo” online pub­li­ca­tion.


    The mass media that con­tin­ued to oper­ate in Belarus, were sub­ject­ed to cen­sor­ship. Apart from the pub­li­ca­tions on polit­i­cal issues, it also affect­ed crit­i­cal expres­sions in rela­tion to gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ties. 

    The Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion con­tin­ued repres­sive activ­i­ties to lim­it access to “unwant­ed” infor­ma­tion, which con­tributed to the reduc­tion of the num­ber of non-state media in the coun­try. Among oth­er things, it mon­i­tored Web-con­tent, ini­ti­at­ed the block­ing of web­sites, and issued warn­ings. Thus, onliner.by, officelife.by and some oth­er Web-resources were forced to remove cer­tain con­tent in order to receive per­mis­sion for regain­ing pub­lic access to their web­sites.

    Offi­cial warn­ings were issued to the “Nasha TV” (“Our TV”) chan­nel (Vit­seb­sk) as well as to the founders of the “Bel­MuzTV” and “Europa Plus TV” pro­grams.

    The pro­pa­gan­dist Telegram-chan­nels report­ed that the lat­ter media out­let was ‘pun­ished’ for the appear­ance of Larysa Hry­balio­va in its pro­grams. She is on the so-called ‘black­list’ of 80 ‘banned’ per­form­ers and oth­er cul­tur­al work­ers, who con­demned vio­lence in Belarus in 2020.

    The “Vkon­tak­te” social media (Rus­sia) blocked the com­mu­ni­ties of “Zerka­lo,” “Medi­a­zone. Belarus,” and “Nasha Niva” inde­pen­dent pub­li­ca­tions as well as ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel at the request of the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of Belarus in 2023.

    The Russ­ian government’s watch­dog ‘Roskom­nad­zor’ banned access to a num­ber of Russ­ian, Belaru­sian, and Ukrain­ian web­sites on the grounds of mil­i­tary cen­sor­ship, includ­ing the BAJ web­site, mediazona.by and ‘Flag­stock’ online news Web-resources in 2023.

    Also, pub­lic access was blocked to a num­ber of region­al Web-resources, includ­ing Intex-press.by, newgrodno.by, brestnote.by, as well as the IT-indus­try news Web­site Dev.by and a sport online peri­od­i­cal ‘Press­ball’, fol­low­ing the cor­re­spond­ing deci­sion, tak­en by the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of Belarus.

    A sim­i­lar deci­sion was tak­en by the Min­istry in rela­tion to Kamunikat.org that is the largest online library of Belaru­sian lit­er­a­ture nowa­days as well as the audiobooks.by Web­site with more than 500 audio record­ings of lit­er­ary works in the Belaru­sian lan­guage.

    A meet­ing of the Nation­al Coun­cil on His­tor­i­cal Pol­i­cy was held on Decem­ber 5, 2023. It was chaired by Ihar Siarheyen­ka, the head of the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion. Among oth­er things, the pub­lish­ing issues were dis­cussed dur­ing the gath­er­ing. The meet­ing par­tic­i­pants dwelt upon the approach­es of the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion to the exclu­sion of ‘pub­li­ca­tions that dis­tort the his­tor­i­cal truth’ from sale and the algo­rithm of inter­de­part­men­tal inter­ac­tion to seize ‘extrem­ist’ pub­li­ca­tions from library funds. Siarheyen­ka sug­gest­ed work­ing out cer­tain mech­a­nisms. How­ev­er, he not­ed that the ‘phys­i­cal destruc­tion’ of unwant­ed books was not con­sid­ered at that.

    Against the back­ground of sys­tem­at­ic per­se­cu­tion for crit­i­cal state­ments on the Inter­net, block­ing access to dozens of inde­pen­dent media and clas­si­fy­ing the online con­tent of cer­tain groups as “extrem­ist,” the Belaru­sian author­i­ties orga­nized the “Inter­net Gov­er­nance Forum” (“Belarus IGF”) on Novem­ber 15, 2023. Appar­ent­ly, the gath­er­ing was direct­ed to cre­ate the impres­sion of nor­mal­i­ty and legit­imize the repres­sive prac­tices. The event hadn’t been held in the peri­od from 2020 till 2023.

    On June 16, 2023, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of Belarus can­celled the cer­tifi­cate of state reg­is­tra­tion of ‘Nar­o­d­naya Volya’ news­pa­per, which used to be one of the lead­ing Belaru­sian inde­pen­dent main­stream peri­od­i­cals, due to the fact that its print­ed ver­sion had not been pub­lished for six months in a row, sub­ject to the impos­si­bil­i­ty of get­ting it print­ed either in Belarus or in Rus­sia.

    On July 31, 2023, the ‘Nar­o­d­naya Volya’ news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al stopped updat­ing its web­site, and on August 4, 2023, Iosif Siaredzich resigned from the posi­tion of the news­pa­per’s edi­tor-in-chief. The ‘Hyper PC’ pri­vate com­pa­ny took over the busi­ness. The ‘Nar­o­d­naya Volya’ web­site and Telegram chan­nel resumed oper­a­tion under the ‘NV’ brand name on August 8, 2023. How­ev­er, pro-gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tives were noticed in their pub­li­ca­tions. On Decem­ber 7, 2023, the new own­er ter­mi­nat­ed updat­ing the ‘Nar­o­d­naya Volya’ web­site and Telegram chan­nel.

    A range of well-known inde­pen­dent region­al media ter­mi­nat­ed their oper­a­tion in Belarus, suf­fer­ing from the unfa­vor­able atmos­phere for the activ­i­ties of the non-state press in the coun­try that includ­ed direct per­se­cu­tion. The remain­ing “Intex-press” (Baranavichy, Brest region), “Infa-Kury­er” (Slut­sk, Min­sk region), and “Rehiyanal­naya Gaze­ta” (Mal­adziech­na, Min­sk region) news­pa­pers, which con­tin­ued to appear in one form or anoth­er, as well as the “Ranak” TV and Radio com­pa­ny (Svi­et­la­horsk, Homiel region) were actu­al­ly ruined as a result of bru­tal intru­sion of secu­ri­ty forces.

    More­over, the de fac­to takeover of some pop­u­lar local media resources took place in 2023. Cor­re­spond­ing­ly, their man­age­ment was trans­ferred to the odi­ous ‘Min­skaya Prau­da’ media out­let with the pur­pose of pub­lish­ing pro­pa­gan­da con­tent. There were reg­is­tered at least three cas­es of the kind, which affect­ed oper­a­tion of ‘Our Native Land of Lahoysk’ Telegram chan­nel (Lahoysk, Min­sk region), ‘Stoubt­sy City’ Insta­gram chan­nel (Stoubt­sy, Min­sk region), and ‘Kraj.by’ Web­site (Mal­adziech­na, Min­sk region).

    The clo­sure of “Dzieyaslou” lit­er­ary and artis­tic mag­a­zine was report­ed at the end of Decem­ber 2023. The peri­od­i­cal had been pub­lished for more than 20 years. The pub­li­ca­tion of the chil­dren’s ‘Striped News­pa­per’ was sus­pend­ed, too.



    The exist­ing ten­den­cy to ide­ol­o­gize the activ­i­ties of state media and their reori­en­ta­tion exclu­sive­ly to pro­pa­gan­da con­tin­ued. The trend also extend­ed to the field of jour­nal­ism edu­ca­tion in 2023.

    On Jan­u­ary 9, 2023, Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka expressed the opin­ion that a pow­er­ful and mod­ern media hold­ing should be cre­at­ed in the Union State of Belarus and Rus­sia in 2023. On April 6, 2023, he repeat­ed this idea at a meet­ing of the Supreme State Coun­cil of the Union State, explain­ing its neces­si­ty with the exist­ing “oppo­si­tion along the West-East line”. In his opin­ion, a media com­pa­ny that cov­ers the agen­da of the Union State should be cre­at­ed in order to avoid the sur­ren­der in “the bat­tle for the cit­i­zens’ hearts and minds on the print, TV, radio and dig­i­tal bat­tle­fields.” The spe­cif­ic con­di­tions for the cre­ation of this media hold­ing were dis­cussed by Dzmit­ry Kru­ty, the Ambas­sador of Belarus to Rus­sia and Alex­ei Gro­mov, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russ­ian Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tive Office in Moscow on Octo­ber 6, 2023.

    The top­ic of con­fronta­tion on the infor­ma­tion front was also dwelt upon by the Min­is­ter of Infor­ma­tion Uladz­imir Pert­sou at a meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the region­al press on Jan­u­ary 20, 2023. He not­ed that jour­nal­ists of the state media are front-line fight­ers of the infor­ma­tion resis­tance, who take the brunt of the ene­my forces: “There is an infor­ma­tion war going on against Belarus and Rus­sia. And we are not los­ing the bat­tle yet.”

    On Feb­ru­ary 9, 2023, Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka announced the estab­lish­ment of a spe­cial Coun­cil of Heads of Nation­al Mass Media at the Belaru­sian State Uni­ver­si­ty, which would super­vise the train­ing of jour­nal­ists. He not­ed that he pays such spe­cial atten­tion to the mass media, since in his opin­ion “the mass media is a field of strug­gle, start­ing from the Inter­net and end­ing with tra­di­tion­al media.” On March 22, 2023, the first meet­ing of the “super­vi­so­ry coun­cil” was held under the chair­man­ship of the Min­is­ter of Infor­ma­tion Uladz­imir Piart­sou. It was ded­i­cat­ed to the revi­sion of the con­tent of edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams in con­nec­tion with the change of approach­es to the train­ing of mod­ern jour­nal­ists as “the infor­ma­tion front fighers”.

    In accor­dance with the tak­en deci­sions, the Jour­nal­ism Depart­ment of the Belaru­sian State Uni­ver­si­ty enrolled stu­dents only to the sub­si­dized places in the sum­mer of 2023. Con­se­quent­ly, the num­ber of first-year stu­dents in this depart­ment reduced by 20%. The depart­ment dean Ali­ak­sei Bialayeu stat­ed that there was no need in the stu­dents, who pay for their stud­ies, since “the Jour­nal­ism Depart­ment ful­fills the state order and trains spe­cial­ists for the state media.”

    The Min­is­ter of Infor­ma­tion Uladz­imir Piart­sou regard­ed the first-year stu­dents of the Jour­nal­ism Depart­ment as “the fight­ing bay­o­nets in the infor­ma­tion war” dur­ing a meet­ing with them.

    At the same time, polit­i­cal ‘purges’ con­tin­ued among state media employ­ees. It was report­ed at the begin­ning of 2023, that 8 peo­ple were fired at Homiel TV com­pa­ny at the end of 2022. Also, Andrei Rasa­fonau, the jour­nal­ist of “Dragichyn­s­ki ves­nik” region­al news­pa­per was dis­missed.

    In March 2023, Andrei Pinchuk, the hon­ored direc­tor of sports broad­casts was detained in a TV stu­dio, tak­en to the police in hand­cuffs for a “pre­ven­tive inter­view” and fired, alleged­ly, for his side­line remarks.

    On May 5, 2023, sev­er­al employ­ees of ‘Homiel Plus’ radio sta­tion were detained direct­ly at their work­places. The edi­tor-in-chief Siarhei Krasnabar­o­da, radio hosts Zhan­na Min­i­na and Anas­ta­sia Gryt­sen­ka, as well as sound engi­neer Art­siom Vasilk­ou were sen­tenced to dif­fer­ent terms of admin­is­tra­tive arrest for up to 15 days for the alleged ‘dis­tri­b­u­tion of extrem­ist mate­ri­als’ (Arti­cle 19.11 of the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es).

    Yana Tsehla, writer and jour­nal­ist of ‘Litaratu­ra i Mas­tats­va’ news­pa­per was fired from her job “for absen­teeism” in ear­ly June 2023. This is how the edi­to­r­i­al man­age­ment inter­pret­ed the two months she spent in a pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter. (Con­se­quent­ly, she was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to two years of “home chem­istry”, which is a form of house arrest with strict restric­tions on move­ment under Arti­cle 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code for tak­ing part in protest actions.) Since she was direct­ed to work at the news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al after grad­u­a­tion from her uni­ver­si­ty stud­ies, which is a manda­to­ry require­ment for the sub­sidised uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates in Belarus, she was urged to reim­burse more than 3.5 thou­sand rubles (around 1,000 EUR) to the state for her uni­ver­si­ty stud­ies.

    The “Zhyt­st­sio Palessia” (“Palessie Life”) dis­trict state news­pa­per faced pres­sure from the secu­ri­ty forces in 2023. The peri­od­i­cal is pub­lished by Mazyr Dis­trict Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (Homiel region). The pub­lic access was tem­porar­i­ly dis­abled to the newspaper’s Web-site on Octo­ber 23, 2023.

    It was just a day ear­li­er that an anony­mous com­plaint had appeared in a Telegram chan­nel, cre­at­ed by the police. Some­one found it sus­pi­cious that an adver­tise­ment for recruit­ment to the Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my was placed next to an adver­tise­ment for funer­al ser­vices in the news­pa­per issue, which was pub­lished on Octo­ber 19, 2023.The law enforce­ment agents promised to check it out if the news­pa­per edi­to­r­i­al was ’extrem­ist and lousy’ with the help of the local depart­ment of GUBAZiK (Main Direc­torate for Com­bat­ing Orga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Belarus).

    New inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions were intro­duced against the state-owned media and pro­pa­gan­dists in 2023.

    Thus, the Belaru­sian TV and Radio Com­pa­ny was exclud­ed from the list of Olympic Games broad­cast­ers for the term of 10 years.

    The Tik­Tok social media blocked and then delet­ed the account of the chau­vin­is­tic pro­pa­gan­da news­pa­per “Min­skaya Prau­da”, which had about 70 thou­sand sub­scribers.

    On Jan­u­ary 15, 2023, Ukraine imposed sanc­tions against odi­ous pro­pa­gan­dists Ryhor Azaron­ak, Ihar Tur, Ali­ak­san­dr Shpak­ous­ki as well as the CEO of CTV chan­nel Ali­ak­san­dr Aseyen­ka. Lit­er­al­ly the next day, the “Belarus 1” state TV chan­nel showed a pro­pa­gan­dist sto­ry accus­ing Ukrain­ian diplo­mats of “recruit­ing for­eign mil­i­tants.” On Jan­u­ary 17, 2023, Ambas­sador of Ukraine to Belarus Ihar Kizym report­ed that a note of protest was sent to the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs of Belarus in this regard.

    In con­nec­tion with the adop­tion of anoth­er pack­age of EU sanc­tions against Rus­sia and Belarus on August 3rd, restric­tive mea­sures were intro­duced against sev­er­al Belaru­sian pro­pa­gan­dists, employed by the state TV broad­cast­ers, includ­ing Kseniya Lebedzie­va, Yauhien Pus­tavy, Anas­tasiya Benedzi­siuk as well as Vadz­im Hihin, who is the cur­rent chair of the “Vedy” (‘Knowl­edge’) soci­ety.

    The Hun­gar­i­an author­i­ties didn’t per­mit Nadzieya Sas, a pro­pa­gan­dist of CTV chan­nel to enter the coun­try. She was stopped at the air­port. Then she was forced to stay overnight in the Tem­po­rary Deten­tion Cen­ter and sent back to Belarus. Sas attempt­ed to vis­it Hun­gary, in order to film a sto­ry about George Soros, the Amer­i­can financier and the founder of the Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tions.

    Two TV chan­nels oper­at­ing in the Gagauz Autonomous Region of Moldo­va were fined for rebroad­cast­ing the “Belarus 24” TV pro­grams in Octo­ber 2023.

    On this occa­sion, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion of Belarus expressed its indig­na­tion at “the desire of the offi­cial author­i­ties of Moldo­va to deprive the cit­i­zens of their coun­try of access to any alter­na­tive infor­ma­tion.”

    On Decem­ber 27,

    The law “On the Nation­al Bud­get 2024” was adopt­ed in Belarus on Decem­ber 27, 2023. It pro­vides for the financ­ing of the five largest state-owned media resources, name­ly the Belaru­sian State TV and Radio Com­pa­ny, the ‘Mir’ TV chan­nel, the Sec­ond Nation­al TV Chan­nel, CJSC ‘Cap­i­tal Tele­vi­sion’ (CTV chan­nel), and the BelTA News Agency. In gen­er­al, it will amount to 150.1 mil­lion Belaru­sian rubles.

    Report­ed­ly, the nom­i­nal increase in financ­ing totaled only 8%, if com­pared to 2020. How­ev­er, tak­ing into account the infla­tion rate, it decreased by almost a quar­ter. At the same time, only CTV can boast of a sig­nif­i­cant increase in fund­ing. Even tak­ing into account the infla­tion rate, it amount­ed to more than 100%. It should be kept in mind that apart from the bud­get fund­ing, the state pro­pa­gan­da media also get income from adver­tis­ing, which could sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase after the “purge” of inde­pen­dent media in the coun­try.

    Accord­ing to the res­o­lu­tion of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters of Belarus No. 914, dat­ed Decem­ber 20, 2023, 21 print­ed media out­lets will be financed from the state bud­get in 2024. The titles of these peri­od­i­cals remain the same as in 2023.


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