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

    As of today, the Belarusian authorities hold 31 journalists behind bars. BAJ got in touch with relatives, friends, and colleagues of most imprisoned journalists and collected the latest news from them.

    Katsiaryna Andreyeva

    The Supreme Court upheld the sen­tence of Bel­sat jour­nal­ist Kat­siary­na Andreye­va – eight years and three months in prison, despite the alter­ation of the charge word­ing.

    Instead of “dis­clos­ing state secrets to a for­eign orga­ni­za­tion or a for­eign state,” the jour­nal­is­tic activ­i­ty of Kat­siary­na Andreye­va has been reword­ed as “espi­onage”.

    The appeal was con­sid­ered in cam­era. Accord­ing to rel­a­tives, let­ters and care pack­ages are reach­ing Kat­siary­na.

    Her mood is sta­ble: she holds up well and does not lose hope.

    Soon she is expect­ed to be trans­ferred to the Homel cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty.

    Kat­siary­na Andreye­va was con­vict­ed under Art. 342 (orga­ni­za­tion of actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order) and Art. 356 of the Crim­i­nal Code (espi­onage).

    Andrei Kuznechyk

    Jour­nal­ist Andrei Kuznechyk was sen­tenced to six years of impris­on­ment under Arti­cle 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code (estab­lish­ment of or par­tic­i­pa­tion in an extrem­ist for­ma­tion). He was sent to the Mahil­iou cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ty to serve his sen­tence. At the end of the sum­mer, his rel­a­tives vis­it­ed the jour­nal­ist.

    Accord­ing to them, Andrei hoped to be at least a lit­tle more com­fort­able in the facil­i­ty, because he missed being in the fresh air. But the weath­er was not com­fort­able for being out­side. He start­ed cough­ing: either he caught a cold, or was aller­gic to the new city.

    At the same time, the jour­nal­ist is con­cerned about his wife and chil­dren, reminds to take the daugh­ter out so his wife could rest and orga­niz­ing a male com­pa­ny for his son Matsvei while the father is away. Even under such con­di­tions, Andrei finds time and inspi­ra­tion to write new poems and send his chil­dren at least a piece of his love.

    Iryna Slaunikava

    Accord­ing to rel­a­tives, there is no news from Bel­sat jour­nal­ist Iry­na Slau­nika­va. She is kept in Homel pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter and awaits the appeal. The fam­i­ly does not hope that the appeal will bring any change.

    The jour­nal­ist is healthy and high-spir­it­ed. Care pack­ages reach her, unlike let­ters – she only receives cor­re­spon­dence from fam­i­ly. After the ver­dict, the rel­a­tives went on a few vis­its with Iry­na.

    Iry­na Slau­nika­va was accused of orga­niz­ing or par­tic­i­pat­ing in actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order (Art. 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code) and of estab­lish­ing or par­tic­i­pat­ing in an extrem­ist for­ma­tion (Art. 361–1 of the Crim­i­nal Code). The jour­nal­ist was sen­tenced to five years of impris­on­ment.

    Aliaksandr Lubianchuk

    Ali­ak­san­dr was detained on 26 May this year.

    The journalist’s fam­i­ly told BAJ that he is doing well and feels cheer­ful. Ali­ak­san­dr is always hap­py to receive let­ters, post­cards, telegrams, mon­ey trans­fers – any way one can say hel­lo.

    He reads a lot of Belaru­sian and for­eign lit­er­a­ture. The pris­on­er miss­es the Belaru­sian nature, to which he has become so attached, liv­ing in the coun­try­side in the last years.

    Siarhei Hardziyevich

    Siarhei Hardziye­vich, a jour­nal­ist of the Hantsavichy media out­let Per­shy rehi­jon, is sched­uled to be released on 27 Octo­ber 2022. He was detained on 22 Decem­ber 2020 and charged under three arti­cles of the Crim­i­nal Code: insult­ing a pub­lic offi­cer (Art. 369), insult­ing the pres­i­dent (Art. 368), and defama­tion (Art. 188). His term of one year and six months of impris­on­ment is com­ing to an end.

    Accord­ing to his col­leagues, he does not receive let­ters, because he was forced to sign a refusal to receive cor­re­spon­dence. How­ev­er, he com­mu­ni­cates with his wife almost every week on Viber. He has not seen his fam­i­ly for the entire time he has been behind bars.

    His fel­low jour­nal­ists are think­ing about how to facil­i­tate Siarhei’s inte­gra­tion upon release. 

    Valeryia Kastsiuhova

    Jour­nal­ist and polit­i­cal ana­lyst Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va has been behind bars for over a year. Accord­ing to her rel­a­tives, she receives let­ters, but in lim­it­ed num­bers. Care pack­ages are deliv­ered.

    She is high-spir­it­ed as usu­al.

    In jail, Valeryia reads a lot, ana­lyzes state pro­pa­gan­da, and holds lec­tures and class­es right in her cell.

    Valeryia Kast­si­uho­va was detained on 30 June 2021 and charged with encour­ag­ing actions aimed at harm­ing the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Repub­lic of Belarus (Art. 361) and con­spir­a­cy to seize pow­er by uncon­sti­tu­tion­al means (Art. 357 of the Crim­i­nal Code).

    Kanstantsin Zalatykh 

    Kanstantsin Zalatykh, direc­tor of the Belorusy i rynok news­pa­per, was detained on 18 May 2022 after a search in the edi­to­r­i­al office.

    He was charged with incite­ment of social enmi­ty com­bined with vio­lence or com­mit­ted by an offi­cial (Art 130.3 of the Crim­i­nal Code). He faces three to ten years of impris­on­ment.

    He is kept in a deten­tion cen­ter. Accord­ing to his fam­i­ly, he receives let­ters from them only, while his let­ters reach both fam­i­ly and friends. He holds up well, based on what he writes and the infor­ma­tion from the lawyer.

    Andrei Pachobut

    Andrei Pachobut, a jour­nal­ist from Hrod­na, has been under inves­ti­ga­tion for almost a year and a half now. He is accused of encour­ag­ing actions aimed at harm­ing the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Repub­lic of Belarus (Art. 361) and incit­ing social enmi­ty (Art. 130 of the Crim­i­nal Code).

    Яму прад’яўляюць абвінавачанні па крымінальных артыкулах 361 — «Заклікі да дзеянняў, скіраваных на прычыненне шкоды нацыянальнай бяспецы Рэспублікі Беларусь» і артыкуле 130 — «Распальванне варожасці».

    His fam­i­ly did not have any sig­nif­i­cant news to share. Andrei did not man­age to fin­ish read­ing his 86-vol­ume case file in a month. After the ver­dict, rel­a­tives hope for a vis­it. His cor­re­spon­dence is not restrict­ed, and he stays strong, how­ev­er, does not hope for mir­a­cles.

    Liudmila Chekina and Maryna Zolatava

    Two TUT.BY rep­re­sen­ta­tives remain behind bars: CEO Liud­mi­la Chek­ina and edi­tor-in-chief Mary­na Zolata­va. They are strong women and sup­port both their cell­mates and those on the out­side, their friends are con­vinced.

    Accord­ing to their col­leagues, Mary­na and Liud­mi­la are high-spir­it­ed and ready to hold out until the end. Behind bars, they are busy with exer­cise and self-edu­ca­tion. Cor­re­spon­dence works bet­ter with fam­i­ly mem­bers. But late­ly, friends have also start­ed receiv­ing replies.

    Zolata­va and Chek­ina were detained on 18 May 2021. They are charged under Arti­cle 243 of the Crim­i­nal Code (tax eva­sion).

    Dzianis Ivashyn

    Judge Valer Ramanous­ki sen­tenced Dzia­n­is Ivashyn, a free­lance jour­nal­ist who worked for the Hrod­na-based news­pa­per Novy chas, to 13 years and one month in prison. He was accused of inter­fer­ence in the activ­i­ties of an inter­nal affairs offi­cer (Art. 365) and trea­son (Art. 356). After the ver­dict, the jour­nal­ist met with his rel­a­tives.

    Accord­ing to the fam­i­ly, Dzia­n­is is high-spir­it­ed, self-con­fi­dent, and opti­mistic.

    The ver­dict was hard­ly a top­ic at the meet­ing, as he imme­di­ate­ly said it did not mat­ter. Dzia­n­is thinks that soon he and all oth­er polit­i­cal pris­on­ers will return home.

    The pris­on­er receives care pack­ages, although some­times they are deliv­ered late. The cor­re­spon­dence is restrict­ed. For some rea­son, his coat was con­fis­cat­ed and he does not have warm clothes for dai­ly exer­cise in the freez­ing cold.

    Pavel Mazheika

    Pavel Mazhei­ka, the head of the Hrod­na Urban Life Cen­ter and a jour­nal­ist, was detained on 30 August 2022. To date, not much is known to his fam­i­ly. They can’t even com­ment on the essence of Pavel’s case.

    The dis­tant rel­a­tives whose homes were searched only man­aged to find out the num­ber of the crim­i­nal arti­cle – 361–4 (pro­mo­tion of extrem­ist activ­i­ty).

    Rel­a­tives did not receive any of his let­ters, although he was pro­vid­ed with the sta­tion­ary and envelopes.

    Accord­ing to the lawyer, Pavel feels okay and can be on file as a polit­i­cal pris­on­er. The jour­nal­ist and the lawyer are going to pre­pare a protest against putting him in cus­tody.

    Henadz Mazheika

    Henadz Mazhei­ka, Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da v Belarusi jour­nal­ist, has been behind bars for almost a year.

    He was detained on 1 Octo­ber 2021. He is accused of insult­ing a pub­lic offi­cer and incit­ing social enmi­ty. His col­leagues know very lit­tle about Henadz. They say there has been no progress in the journalist’s case.

    Andrei Skurko

    Accord­ing to rel­a­tives, Nasha Niva jour­nal­ist Andrei Skurko feels very well and stays strong, calm, and adamant.

    The rel­a­tives try to take after him.

    He says that the less you let the cir­cum­stances rest inside you, the less you live them, the bet­ter.

    Fam­i­ly mem­bers are hap­py that Andrei is tak­ing care of his phys­i­cal con­di­tion and health. He has insulin-depen­dent dia­betes but man­ages to keep his blood sug­ar at the right lev­el.

    The jour­nal­ist some­times calls his wife and par­ents. He is only allowed to call and cor­re­spond with close fam­i­ly. When Andrei began video-call­ing, his son, who is 2 years and 8 months old, was final­ly able to com­mu­ni­cate with him direct­ly, instead of through poems and post­cards that his father con­stant­ly sends him. Father and son did not see each oth­er for 14 months.

    Now Tamash some­times asks to call his father.

    The fam­i­ly explained to the child that it is not pos­si­ble and he needs to wait for the call. The son has many plans for after Andrei’s release, which he and his father dis­cuss dur­ing phone con­ver­sa­tions.

    Andrei Skurko was sen­tenced to two and a half years of impris­on­ment under Arti­cle 216 of the Crim­i­nal Code (caus­ing injury not qual­i­fy­ing for theft).

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