Today, a new post appeared on Yahor Martsinovich’s Facebook page.
The journalist posted a message of gratitude to thousands of Belarusians who supported him, helped him or other political prisoners, or at least were concerned about their situation.
“It’s easier to do things when you are united. I’ll try to contact everyone who wrote me to jail. I found out that there are many more honest, decent Belarusians and true patriots of our country than I could have ever imagined,” Martsinovich shared on Facebook. “It’s painful to realize how many unnecessary worries and problems our relatives and friends have to face. They carried the main burden on their shoulders. As inmates, we simply pass the time inside and cross off each day. However, our loved ones never opted to be raided by masked terrorists, wait outside of detention centers, or question whether or not we’ll be freed.”
“There are too many variables to determine exactly how we should have acted to reduce possible losses and improve the chances of the triumph of reason and Belarusian people. Despite this, I remain optimistic.
“It’s important to me that I regain my freedom with a clear conscience. I am not ashamed to look people in the eye, and that means a lot to me.”
Yahor Martshinovich, Nasha Niva’s chief editor, and Andrei Skurko, the advertising manager were arrested in July 2021 and released on 18 August 2023.
During his arrest, Yahor Martshinovich was subjected to physical abuse.
“They didn’t talk to me, they beat me. They didn’t care what I had to say,” the journalist wrote in a letter. “They asked who I voted for and hit me immediately. ‘Who is our president?’ Even if you answered ‘Lukashenka’, they still hit you on the head.”
The arresting officers shouted protest slogans such as “We want change”, “We believe, we can, we will win”, and continued to beat the journalist. They found this very entertaining.
Later, the Nasha Niva workers were charged with causing injury not qualifying for theft, committed by a group of persons in collusion or major injury.
The law enforcement claimed that Nasha Niva paid its utility bills at tariffs for individuals, instead of those set for legal entities.
Yahor Martsinovich, speaking from behind bars, said, “Even the guards are laughing at me, I’m ashamed to tell my cellmates what I’m accused of.”
The defendants fully reimbursed the damage worth $3,500. However, in March 2022, the reporters received a sentence of two and a half years in prison.
Since the 2020 election, the chief editor of Nasha Niva was arrested twice. The first arrest happened during the night of August 10-11, 2020 while he was reporting the active phase of protests. The journalist stayed in detention for several days but was freed on the orders of the Interior Minister.
On 23 September 2020, Yahor Martsinovich was arrested again on criminal charges for “defamation against the deputy head of the Interior Ministry”. The reason was an interview with Uladzislau Sakalouski, one of the “Djs of Change,” published on the Nasha Niva website. Three days later, Yahor Martsinovich was released again but was registered as a suspect for some time.
Despite the government’s efforts to suppress the media and restrict their freedoms, the editor-in-chief of the widely-read Belarusian-language publication continued to operate in the country.
“As a reporter, I attended every Sunday parade from August 16 to the latest ones in late November,” Yahor Martsinovich shared in March 2021.
He said his enthusiasm, confidence in the people’s will, and their eventual triumph kept him optimistic for years to come. Martsinovich acknowledged that even if some individuals were frightened, arrested, or experienced a comedown, it did not imply that the masses had surrendered.
“That is unfeasible. If a large group of people tasted freedom once, they will eventually internalize it. Eventually, their desire for freedom will reach a boiling point and affect everyone and everything.”