Belarus Targets Journalists in Violent Crackdown

Опубликовано: 12 Август 2020

National news outlet Belsat says that 19 of its journalists have been detained since the controversial election took place on Sunday (Photo: belsat, CC SA-BY 3.0)National news outlet Belsat says that 19 of its journalists have been detained since the controversial election took place on Sunday (Photo: belsat, CC SA-BY 3.0)

Authorities in Belarus have in the past 72 hours detained more than 20 journalists as part of a violent response to civil unrest over the controversial result of the recent presidential election.

Sunday’s poll saw incumbent Alexander Lukashenko win a landslide victory against primary opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Amid widespread allegations of vote-tampering, the outcome has sparked mass protests in the capital of Minsk and across other cities in the country, which have been met with violence by police.

Accompanying the release of photos revealing the extent of injuries sustained by protestors, national press outlet Belsat released a statement on Monday claiming that several of its contributors had been arrested and were “facing persecution for performing their professional duties.”

This includes reporters Zmitser Lupach, Alyaksei Kairys, Yan Roman, Zmitser Kazakevich, Stas Ikashevich, Ihar Matveyeu, Vyachaslau Lazarau, Yauhen Merkis, Alyaksandr Sayenka, Darya Chultsova, Iryna Slaunikava, Katsyrayna Tkachenka, Milana Kharytoava and Ales Lyachuk.

Describing Roman’s arrest as “brutal”, Belsat said that many have been released but that Lupach had been sentenced to five days, while Ivashkevich said in a Facebook post that he had been released after receiving a fine for “participation in unsanctioned activity.”

Ivashkevich, who recently produced an online video documenting Lukachenko’s apparent affinity for fashion models, had been missing since he was last seen on August 9 in the capital.

Police refused to respond to repeated requests for information and his lawyer was denied entry to a facility at which he is believed to have been detained.

He added in his post that his camera operator Ivan Murauyou and researcher Siarzhuk Herasimovich were also arrested.

Belsat later updated its list of targeted reporters, stating that Tatyana Belashova, Elena Shcherbinskaya, Vitaly Dubik and Vladimir Lunev have similarly disappeared.

Meanwhile, news website Meduza claims that special correspondent Maxim Solopov was severely beaten by police in Minsk before being detained and spirited away, again to an unknown location.

Lukashenko has repeatedly denounced public unrest over the election as the work of foreign agents.

Prior to the vote, OCCRP reported that Belarusian authorities arrested more than 30 men suspected of being Russian mercenaries, who were allegedly preparing to orchestrate mass riots over the weekend.

Despite the subsequent deterioration in relations, Lukashenko’s victory has already been endorsed by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, as well as China’s Xi Jinping, according to CNN.