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  • Belarusian journalists detained, forced to make ‘confession’ videos

    Paris, October 12, 2022—Belarusian authorities are continuing their crackdown on the country’s independent media with a spate of fresh arrests and detentions of several journalists.

    On Thurs­day, Octo­ber 6, police in Min­sk, the cap­i­tal, detained Snezhana Inanets, a reporter at the inde­pen­dent news web­site Onlin­er, and her hus­band Ali­ak­san­dr Lychavko, a local his­to­ri­an and reporter with inde­pen­dent news web­site The Vil­lage, mul­ti­ple media reports said.

    In videos pub­lished on Fri­day by a pro-gov­ern­ment Telegram chan­nel, Lychavko and Inanets say they were detained for tak­ing part in the 2020 nation­wide protests demand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Alek­san­dr Lukashenko and sub­scrib­ing to “destruc­tive” Telegram chan­nels and chats. Lychavko also said he repost­ed infor­ma­tion, with­out spec­i­fy­ing the nature of the infor­ma­tion. Barys Haret­s­ki, deputy head of the banned local advo­ca­cy and trade group Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ), told CPJ via mes­sag­ing app that both Lychavko and Inanets were cov­er­ing the 2020 protests as jour­nal­ists.

    Sep­a­rate­ly on Fri­day, a court in Hly­bokaye, in north­ern Belarus, ordered that pho­to­jour­nal­ist Leonid Yurik be detained for five days for “dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion con­tain­ing calls to extrem­ist activ­i­ties,” accord­ing to BAJ.

    “The deten­tion of jour­nal­ists Snezhana Inanets, Ali­ak­san­dr Lychavko, and Leonid Yurik in Belarus shows that author­i­ties’ crack­down on mem­bers of the press will not stop until the last inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist is either impris­oned or has fled the coun­try,” said Gul­noza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Cen­tral Asia pro­gram coor­di­na­tor, in New York. “It is appalling that some are forced to make ‘con­fes­sion videos’ sug­gest­ing they were at polit­i­cal protests as par­tic­i­pants rather than reporters. Those still being held should be released and charges against them dropped imme­di­ate­ly.”

    Lychavko and Inanets are held in pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter No. 1 in Min­sk and charged with alleged­ly “orga­niz­ing or par­tic­i­pat­ing in gross vio­la­tions of pub­lic order,” the asso­ci­a­tion report­ed. If found guilty, they face up to four years in prison, accord­ing to the Belaru­sian crim­i­nal code.

    In Yurik’s case, offi­cers with the Min­istry of Interior’s Main Direc­torate for Com­bat­ing Orga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion detained Yurik on Wednes­day, Octo­ber 5, in Hly­bokaye, media reports said. Author­i­ties did not dis­close the exact rea­son for Yurik’s deten­tion, but Haret­s­ki told CPJ via mes­sag­ing app that he believed Yurik’s arrest was retal­i­a­tion for his jour­nal­ism. Yurik was released on Octo­ber 10, Haret­s­ki said.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, on Sep­tem­ber 14, author­i­ties in Min­sk detained Andrey Ilyenya, a reporter with online sports web­site Press­ball, and held him for 10 days, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple media reports, a BAJ post, and a post by for­mer Press­ball jour­nal­ist Niko­lai Ivanov, who spoke to CPJ via mes­sag­ing app. 

    Ivanov told CPJ that Ilye­na was released on Sep­tem­ber 25. CPJ con­tact­ed Ilye­na via mes­sag­ing app for con­fir­ma­tion but did not receive any reply. In a Telegram post, BAJ con­firmed that Ilye­na was free.

    BAJ report­ed that Ilye­na came under the author­i­ties’ scruti­ny because he was recent­ly accred­it­ed to cov­er the away match­es of the Belaru­sian nation­al foot­ball team in the UEFA Nations League. Author­i­ties said that he post­ed a white-red-white flag, a sym­bol of anti-Lukashenko protests, on his Face­book pic­ture.

    CPJ called the Main Direc­torate for Com­bat­ing Orga­nized Crime and Cor­rup­tion and emailed the Belaru­sian inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee for com­ment, but no one answered.

    Read also: 

    Police-affiliated Telegram channel published video of detained journalists Aliaksandr Lychauka and Sniazhana Inanets

    UN experts call for immediate release of jailed Nobel winner and other rights defenders in Belarus 

    “They hold up well and don’t lose hope.” Latest news from imprisoned journalists

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