ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the arrest and imprisonment of journalist and former staff member Andrei Aliaksandrau and his partner Irina Zlobina last week in Belarus, and calls for their immediate release. Andrei and Irina’s arrest is part of a widespread crackdown on independent media, protest and criticism following last year’s disputed election. Belarusian authorities have detained thousands of protestors, activists and journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression, many of whom have been subject to torture.
Andrei and Irina were arrested in Minsk on 12 January, and they are currently charged with “organisation and preparation of actions, grossly violating public order, or active participation in them, as well as funding and other material support for such activities.” We are particularly concerned that Andrei and Irina have been denied access to their lawyer, in violation of their fair trial rights, and by reports that they may have been mistreated in detention. Andrei, who founded the news site Journalby, is a dedicated proponent of press freedom, who has previously worked with freedom of expression organisations as well as in journalism, including as a colleague at ARTICLE 19.
“The imprisonment of Andrei and Irina is further worrying evidence of the Belarusian authorities’ repression of independent journalists and disregard for human rights. These baseless charges are part of a campaign of criminalising free expression and protest, and must be immediately dropped. Andrei and Irina should be urgently provided access to their legal counsel and any necessary medical care, and released from detention,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19.