• Actual
  • Law and the media
  • Helpful
  • Work areas and campaigns
  • Reviews and monitoring
  • Imprisoned journalists should not be forgotten: Belarusian and Lithuanian journalists took part in solidarity action on May 3

    On World Press Free­dom Day, the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists and the Lithuan­ian Jour­nal­ist Union held a sym­bol­ic action for the release of Belaru­sian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers who worked in the media sphere. The sol­i­dar­i­ty action took place in Luk­iškės Prison in Vil­nius.

    Лукішская турма палітзняволеныя беларускія журналісты

    Sol­i­dar­i­ty action with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Luk­iškės Prison, Vil­nius, May 3, 2024. Pho­to: BAJ

    Belarus is located in Europe, but it is ranked next to Tajikistan and Eritrea

    On May 3, World Press Free­dom Day, media work­ers, human rights defend­ers and activists from Belarus and Lithua­nia came to the for­mer prison to express sol­i­dar­i­ty with impris­oned Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists.

    Luk­iškės Prison was built in 1901–1904 and closed in 2019, but it oppress­es and depress­es to this day. Here the orga­niz­ers of the action held a sym­bol­ic pho­to ses­sion with por­traits of impris­oned jour­nal­ists: Iry­na Leushy­na, Mary­na Zolata­va, Ihar Losik, Andrei Kuznechyk, Ihar Karnei, Andrzej Poc­zobut, Andrei Ali­ak­san­drau and oth­ers. There are 35 jour­nal­ists behind bars in Belarus today. Their only guilt is that they hon­est­ly ful­filled their pro­fes­sion­al duty.

    For­mer polit­i­cal pris­on­ers also came to the sol­i­dar­i­ty action. The RFE/RL Belarus jour­nal­ist Aleh Hruzdzilovich was arrest­ed on Decem­ber 23, 2021 and sen­tenced to one and a half years of impris­on­ment under Arti­cle 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code. In Sep­tem­ber 2022, Aleh Hruzdzilovich was released. Short­ly after, he moved to Lithua­nia.

    Human rights defend­er Leanid Sudalen­ka was arrest­ed on Jan­u­ary 18, 2021 and sen­tenced to 3 years in prison under the infa­mous “peo­ple’s” arti­cle. The human rights defend­er served his entire sen­tence and was released on July 21, 2023. And soon he also left for Lithua­nia.

    Леанід Судаленка Лукішская турма

    Human rights activist Leanid Sudalen­ka dur­ing the sol­i­dar­i­ty action with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Luk­iškės Prison, Vil­nius, May 3, 2024. Pho­to: BAJ

    The head of the Lithuan­ian Union of Jour­nal­ists, Dainius Radze­vičius, gave a very brief excur­sion into the his­to­ry of the place:

    “Pris­ons in our region were only built by the Russ­ian Empire. We have already been lib­er­at­ed. In 2019 Luk­iškės Prison was closed as a cor­rec­tion­al insti­tu­tion. I hope that Belarus will soon lib­er­ate itself and close its pris­ons as well.”

    Andrei Bas­tunets, Chair­man of the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists, spoke dur­ing the event:

    “The free­dom of the press and today’s Belarus are not com­pat­i­ble. Our 35 col­leagues, our friends, are in jail. We men­tioned them a year ago. But the sit­u­a­tion has not improved over the past year. When some jour­nal­ists were released, oth­ers remained behind bars.

    So far we have not been able to achieve the main goal – the release of our col­leagues. But it is in our pow­er to remind peo­ple about our trag­ic sit­u­a­tion, about Belarus, about Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists behind bars and about all Belaru­sian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers in gen­er­al.”

    Председатель БАЖ Андрей Бастунец во время акции солидарности с политзаключенными журналистами. Лукишская тюрьма, Вильнюс, 3 мая 2024 года. Фото: БАЖ

    The BAJ chair­man recalled anoth­er press free­dom rat­ing pre­pared by Reporters With­out Bor­ders. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the sit­u­a­tion with the free­dom of the press is get­ting worse: com­pared to last year’s rat­ing, Belarus has dropped anoth­er 10 lines this year, putting it in the com­pa­ny of Turk­menistan, Afghanistan, Syr­ia and Eritrea. Today Belarus ranks 167 out of 180 coun­tries includ­ed in the press free­dom rat­ing.

    “This indi­ca­tor is an elo­quent tes­ti­mo­ny to the sit­u­a­tion in which the Belaru­sian media find them­selves today. But I believe that the sit­u­a­tion will change, also thanks to our sol­i­dar­i­ty,” empha­sized the BAJ Chair­man.

    Belarus without freedom of speech and independent media

    The sit­u­a­tion in Belarus is quite sad.

    “Belarus has absolute­ly no free­dom of speech and vir­tu­al­ly no inde­pen­dent media. A small num­ber of inde­pen­dent pub­li­ca­tions, strug­gling to sur­vive, have fall­en under a wave of purges and repres­sions over the past year. Some of them have been forcibly liq­ui­dat­ed, while oth­ers are forced to work under con­di­tions of max­i­mum self-cen­sor­ship, to dis­tance them­selves as much as pos­si­ble from social and polit­i­cal con­tent, because nobody knows what the author­i­ties might sud­den­ly dis­ap­prove of,” says Barys Haret­s­ki, Deputy Chair­man of the BAJ.

    Лукішская турма партрэты беларускіх журналістаў БАЖ марафон салідарнасці

    Sol­i­dar­i­ty action with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Luk­iškės Prison, Vil­nius, May 3, 2024. Pho­to: BAJ

    BAJ, rec­og­nized as an “extrem­ist for­ma­tion”, can­not have any rela­tions with impris­oned jour­nal­ists. How­ev­er, the asso­ci­a­tion is in con­tact with all inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists who have left the coun­try and fol­lows the fate of impris­oned jour­nal­ists through pub­lic and insid­er sources.

    “There are peo­ple we know a lot about, and there are those we haven’t heard from in a long time, there’s just no infor­ma­tion,” says Barys Haret­s­ki. “Jour­nal­ists are sit­ting there, and our duty is to remind peo­ple about them. This year we have prob­a­bly held about 30 sol­i­dar­i­ty actions in dif­fer­ent coun­tries of the world, and we are keen on con­tin­u­ing.”

    “Let all imprisoned journalists leave the prison for a free city”

    Dainius Radze­vičius, Chair­man of the Lithuan­ian Union of Jour­nal­ists, empha­sized that the pur­pose of the action in sol­i­dar­i­ty with Belaru­sian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers was not only the need to remem­ber the num­bers.

    “I want us not to talk about num­bers, not about the num­ber of jour­nal­ists who are now in Belaru­sian pris­ons, but to show the per­son­al­i­ties, the faces, the names, the fates of these peo­ple. We must remind the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, the deci­sion-mak­ers, first of all in the Euro­pean Union, that we must con­stant­ly put pres­sure on the Belaru­sian regime to achieve the release of our col­leagues. And the most impor­tant thing is that all of them, pros­e­cu­tors, judges, inves­ti­ga­tors, those who informed the author­i­ties about the jour­nal­ists, will be brought to jus­tice in the future.”

    Андрэй Бастунец Барыс Гарэцкі Дайнюс Радзявічус Алег Груздзіловіч Лукішская турма палітвязні

    Andrei Bas­tunets, Barys Haret­s­ki, Dainius Radze­vičius and Aleh Gruzdilovich dur­ing the sol­i­dar­i­ty action with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Luk­iškės Prison, Vil­nius, May 3, 2024. Pho­to: BAJ

    It was men­tioned that BAJ Chair­man Andrei Bas­tunets was admit­ted to the Lithuan­ian Jour­nal­ist Union and Dainius Radze­vičius was admit­ted to BAJ.

    “It is very valu­able for me that your orga­ni­za­tion is free: in Vil­nius, in Lithua­nia, in the world. The only coun­try in the world where you are rec­og­nized as an extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion is Belarus. But I am sat­is­fied with such a com­pa­ny and I think that togeth­er with you I should be a good extrem­ist,” joked the LJU Chair­man.

    The joint action end­ed with the sym­bol­ic release of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ist pris­on­ers from Luk­iškės Prison.

    “Let’s try to release each of our col­leagues, who are in Belaru­sian pris­ons, at least from this prison. Let all impris­oned jour­nal­ists go out of prison to a free city,” the orga­niz­ers explained the mean­ing of the final action.

    Алег Агееў палітвязні Лукішская турма

    Sol­i­dar­i­ty action with polit­i­cal­ly impris­oned jour­nal­ists. Luk­iškės Prison, Vil­nius, May 3, 2024. Pho­to: BAJ

    The par­tic­i­pants of the action with por­traits of impris­oned Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists left Luk­iškės Prison through the entrance gate one after anoth­er. They were wel­comed by free Vil­nius.


    Image 1 of 17

    The most important news and materials in our Telegram channel — subscribe!
    Most read
    Every day send to your mailbox: actual offers (grants, vacancies, competitions, scholarships), announcements of events (lectures, performances, presentations, press conferences) and good content.


    * indicates required

    By subscribing to the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy