The OSCE Media Freedom representative and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have condemned the persecution of independent Belarusian journalists.
“I am alarmed by the detention and imprisonment of journalists and freelance reporters Mikhail Arshynski, Zmitser Lupach, Ales Asiptsou and Alyaksandr Burakou for their alleged participation in unauthorised events. Journalists must be able to report on events of public interest such as public protests. I am very much concerned by this decision, which impedes on media freedom. I call on the authorities to release all concerned journalists and freelance reporters,” Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said on May, 12.
Accoring to RSF, international community should press Belarus to guarantee media freedom on the threshold of the 2020 presidential campaign.
“This targeted harassment in the run-up to the presidential election clearly aims to intimidate journalists and obstruct coverage of opposition activity in Belarus. These convictions disregard article 34 of the Belarusian media law, which allows reporters to cover public events. There is no justification for jailing these journalists. Their convictions must be overturned and the basic right to inform must be respected,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
Since May 6, there have been dozens of arrests and trials of citizens who showed up in the meetings with popular vlogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski in a number of Belarusian cities and towns. Freelance journalists, including Belsat contributors, were among the detainees.
On May 11-12, Belarusian courts sentenced Mikhail Arshynski, Zmitser Lupach, Alyaksandr Burakou and Ales Asiptsou to terms ranging from 10 to 21 days in prison for ‘participating in unauthorised rallies’. After the trial, Belsat TV contributor Zmitser Lupach was taken to the intensive care unit due to hypertensive emergency.