Aliaksandr Mantsevich, Rehijanalnaja Hazeta’s chief editor, will be tried in Maladzechna. Judge Aliaksei Irshyn will preside over the case, reports the Viasna Human Rights Center. Mantsevich was arrested on March 15 after his house in Vileika was searched and has been in custody ever since. The journalist is charged with discrediting the state.
Allegedly, Aliaksandr Mantsevich, who was the leader of the editorial board of Rehijanalnaja Hazeta, and some other people, spread false information that discredited the Belarusian government and its power. This was done through the newspaper and social media platforms over a period from 1 January 2020 to 15 March 2023.
The prosecution asserts that the articles contained incorrect information that was intended to cause significant harm to the state, public welfare, and national interests. This information degraded the authority of the country and its officials. It also caused unrest among citizens of Belarus since it provided false ideas about the violation of their rights and freedoms.
The Belarusian rights community recognized Aliaksandr Mantsevich as a political prisoner. They pointed out that the editor’s arrest and trial were a part of the government’s plan to restrict the distribution of unbiased information in the country.
Moreover, it is another attempt to suppress free speech. Rehijanalnaja Hazeta was compelled to discontinue producing the print version in July 2021 and prioritize the online issue. In January 2023, following a Maladzechna District Court ruling, the Ministry of Information added the newspaper’s website and Telegram channel to the Republican List of Extremist Materials. After police raided the newsroom and arrested the chief editor, the court deemed the Vkontakte social media page of the publication as “extremist.”