ARTICLE 19 is calling on the Belarusian authorities to immediately end their crackdown on protest, and to release four journalists, who were arrested and detained for covering the recent demonstrations.
The current repression of freedom of expression and assembly in Belarus is related to a series of protests in response to the detention of popular YouTuber and presidential candidate Siarhei Tsikhanouski on 6 May 2020. Over the next few days, the police detained over a hundred protestors across the country, many of whom were fined or sentenced to up to 15 days of detention for participation in an “unauthorised” protest.
According to the Human Rights Center Viasna, police officers at a court hearing in Mahiliou city argued that the protesters were “speaking negatively about the current government” and the “situation with coronavirus”.
On 11 and 12 May, four journalists, Ales Asiptsou, Mikhail Arshynski, Alexander Burakou and Zmitser Lupach were sentenced to between ten and 21 days in prison for covering the protests. They were found to have violated Article Art. 23:34 of the Administrative Code (Participation in an unauthorised mass event).
“The new wave of repression is an attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence critical voices ahead of the upcoming presidential elections,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. “It is unacceptable under any circumstances to detain peaceful protesters who are critical of the government, as well as journalists who cover these protests. The Belarusian authorities must immediately release all those who are detained.”