On August 31, Homel Regional Court announced the sentence of former journalist and local historian Larysa Shchyrakova – 3.5 years in prison. Shchyrakova was accused of “discrediting the Republic of Belarus” and “promoting extremist activities”.
The court also fined her $1,316.
Only the operative part of the judgment was announced. Larysa started crying upon seeing her family and friends in the courtroom but soon composed herself.
The details of the charges against the journalist are unknown, but it’s believed she disseminated “untrue” information about Belarus online. It’s also unclear what her involvement in “extremist activities” was. Attorney Viktoria Famenka, who represented Shchyrakova, signed a non-disclosure obligation.
During the trial, it was revealed that the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus decided to declare the Homel chapter of the Viasna Human Rights Center an extremist formation. The decision accused the group of people affiliated with it of engaging in extremist activities, specifically employing online platforms.
Before the verdict announcement, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, showed complete support for Larysa Shchyrakova and all independent journalists jailed by Lukashenka. “In its many resolutions,” said Roberta Metsola, “the European Parliament has strongly condemned the inhumane treatment of political prisoners and their families, as well as the ongoing repression of the political opposition, independent media, and journalists.”
The former journalist was arrested in Homel on December 6, 2022. Her son Sviataslau was sent to a children’s home until his father came to take him out of the system.
Larysa Shchyrakova used to work for several independent publications. But back in 2021, she publicly announced her quitting journalism because of the harassment she had to endure for working without accreditation. Ex-journalist was held administratively liable over 40 times, including for her coverage of post-election protests.