Protests Quashed in Belarus as Reporters Face Serious Charges

Published: 02 December 2020

1. Belarus JournalistsJournalists Andreyeva, Chultsova and Barysevich (left to right) face serious criminal charges. (Photo: BAJ, License)

By Will Neal

Belarus continues to crack down on public dissent following the controversial presidential election this summer, with authorities now starting to bring serious criminal charges against the hundreds of journalists arrested since demonstrations began.

Police detained at least 300 people on Sunday during protests in Minsk, which had been staged as a series of small, dispersed rallies to limit demonstrators’ exposure to typically violent response by security forces, according to Deutsche Welle.

Those involved in the movement are calling for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who beat opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya in an internationally-decried  August 9 election dogged by widespread allegations of vote-buying.

Several countries including neighbouring Ukraine, as well as North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, have joined with the European Union in imposing sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime.

Meanwhile, authorities maintain their assault on the country’s press, which has seen many reporters violently attacked and detained in the months since the election.

Security forces have arrested more than 360 journalists, with 20 already behind bars and three now facing serious criminal charges for their coverage of the demonstrations, according to a statement from the Belarussian Association of Journalists.

Katsiaryna Andreyeva, Daria Chultsova and Katsiaryna Barysevich have been sent to pre-trial detention centres. 

Andreyeva, a reporter with Belsat TV who was arrested on November 15th, reportedly faces criminal proceedings for allegedly orchestrating a riot. The charges carry a possible sentence of up to fifteen years in prison, according to the Belarussian criminal code.

OCCRP was further informed by a source with knowledge of the matter that Andreyeva’s husband has also been arrested by the authorities.

Chultsova faces similar proceedings, while Barysevich was indicted for “disclosing medical secrets, resulting in grave consequences” after reporting that protester Raman Bandarenka had been beaten to death, contrary to official statements.

A further six journalists are reportedly subject to criminal investigation, but have not yet been charged.