Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina have been behind bars since 12 January 2021, when they were detained and imprisoned for claiming their right to freedom of expression.
Today, 12 January 2022, one year on from the detention of Andrei and Irina, ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship launch a campaign in solidarity and we call for their immediate and unconditional release.
A journalist and human rights defender who previously worked at both Index on Censorship and ARTICLE 19, Andrei is now facing charges of ‘treason to the state’. The charges stem from allegations that he paid the fines of journalists and protesters detained during the pro-democracy protests triggered by the highly disputed 2020 presidential election.
Belarusian law enforcement agencies erroneously equate this with financing unlawful protests. If convicted, Andrei will face up to 15 years in prison.
His partner Irina Zlobina, was also detained ‘on suspicion of financing protest activities’ and has since been charged with ‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’. She is facing up to three years in prison.
“We invited journalists, human rights defenders, press freedom activists and friends of Andrei and Irina to record short video messages for the campaign. Those videos will be shared on social media in the coming days,” ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship said.
“As Andrei’s former colleagues, we want as many people as possible to know how incredibly kind and generous he and Irina are, and to understand the unfathomable injustice they are both facing at the hands of the Belarusian authorities.”
Social media banners are available to download and use as background photos and images to accompany tweets and posts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
How to join the campaign
Get involved, show solidarity and help us spread the message by:
- Using one of our banners as your background photo on social media to enhance your message
- Using one of our social media sample posts
- Using the hashtag #FreeAndreiandIrina
- Sharing and amplifying videos recorded by friends and partners of the campaign on your social media feeds
- Sharing social media posts by ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship;
- Signing a petition to call for the immediate release of Andrei.
View videos in support and access the social media toolkit
More about Andrei and Irina
In Belarus, exercising one’s fundamental rights prompts rampant state persecution manifested in detention, abduction, intimidation, unfair trials and even torture. Over 900 political prisoners remain behind bars in atrocious conditions simply for exercising their right to protest and for expressing their views.
Amid the crackdown on civil liberties, Belarusian journalist, human rights defender and a dear friend to many of us Andrei Aliaksandrau may spend more than a decade in prison as a reprisal for his journalism and human rights work, and for exposing the brutality of the regime and helping its victims. Bogus charges against Andrei and his partner Irina Zlobina are a painful reminder of the repression Belarusians who dare to continue their pursuit of justice face.
Andrei and Irina remain in pre-trial detention and are not allowed to see each other or communicate. Irina is less known as an activist than Andrei is, so it is vital the international community does not let her ordeal and the courage she has shown slip from public view.
Those of us who have had the privilege to meet and work with Andrei know of his dedication to defending human rights, his friendly, charismatic manner and his great sense of humour. “This got to be the year Liverpool finally won the Premier League! I knew it was going to be a hell of a year,” he said to his former Index colleague after the rigged elections.
In addition to his passion for English football, Andrei is a great fan of Depeche Mode. Colleagues at ARTICLE 19 recall listening to the group’s music with Andrei and applauding his performance of ‘Useless’. Those who have been in touch with him while he has been in detention say he continues to reflect on his current situation with a solid dose of irony.
“Thanks to you, and other good people, my conscience is clear,” he wrote to a friend last year. Not only is his conscience clear, so is his commitment to the people of Belarus. This is more than can be said about the Lukashenka regime, which continues to persecute and vilify the people of Belarus.
By bringing the attention of the public to Andrei and Irina’s plight, we want to encourage people to show their support. Collectively we will demand justice on their behalf and on behalf of the many Belarusians facing ongoing and blatant travesties of justice.
For further information, please contact:
Katia Mierzejewska, Communications and Media Officer, Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19, [email protected]
Jessica Ní Mhainín, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Index on Censorship, [email protected]