Belarus jails two journalists for filming protests – POLITICO

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A court in Minsk on Thursday sentenced two Belarusian journalists to two years in prison on charges of “disrupting civil order” after they filmed protests against Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

In November 2020, Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were working for Poland-based news channel Belsat, livestreaming mass protests over the death of a protestor killed by security forces several days earlier. Police broke down the door of the apartment they were filming from and arrested them.

Investigators claim that Andreyeva and Chultsova coordinated protesters and called for further actions, and charged them with “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order.” Both journalists pleaded not guilty of orchestrating the demonstrations, calling the charges politically motivated in their last statement.

Earlier, the Committee to Protect Journalists had urged Belarusian authorities to drop the “absurd” charges and release Andreyeva and Chultsova unconditionally.

The sentence is another episode in the Lukashenko regime’s massive crackdown amid ongoing mass protests over last summer’s fraudulent presidential election.

On Tuesday, police raided homes and offices of journalists and human rights activists, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists. Boris Goretsky, the association’s vice president, whose home was also raided, said that “more than 400 detentions of journalists” have been recorded over the past six months in the country.

On Wednesday, a court in Minsk started the hearing of opposition leader Viktor Babariko, who faces up to 15 years in prison over charges of “money laundering” and “bribery”. Human rights watchdogs called him a “prisoner of conscience.”

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