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Statement of the ECR on the detention and ensuing imprisonment of Belsat journalists in Belarus

“The detention and ensuing imprisonment of Belsat Journalists Ms. Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Ms. Darya Chultsova, Mr. Dzmitry Krauchuk, Mr. Artsyom Bahaslauski and Mr. Dzmitry Soltan for exposing illegal police brutality is neither justified nor constitutional. We condemn the campaign of brutality and intimidation, and demand the immediate release of illegally detained journalists.”

The worsening human rights situation in Belarus, having persisted since before the fraudulent Presidential elections, has led to further escalations in the month of November. In the context of Lukashenko’s government-led campaign of brutality and intimidation, Belsat TV journalists Ms. Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Ms. Darya Chultsova, Mr. Dzmitry Krauchuk, Mr. Artsyom Bahaslauski and Mr. Dzmitry Soltan were detained, and subsequently sentenced in mid-November by Belarussian security forces, based on Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation of mass riots). Reports of targeted violence against journalists and media representatives have become systemic in the Lukashenko regime.

The reported human rights violations and, in particular, the recent actions against journalists and the government opposition, represent a further deterioration of the crisis in Belarus, as was also underlined by the OSCE Special Rapporteur in his most recent report. Violence, intimidation and repression is not the way forward. On the contrary, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are cornerstones of democracy. What the Lukashenko regime categorises as mass riots and insurgency is civil society at large, struggling to make its voice heard. The Belarusian people are making fair demands for adequate democratic representation and political participation, whilst being systematically intimidated and blocked by a 26-year old regime that has lost touch with society.

We are deeply concerned by the ongoing violence and reports of human rights abuses. The violent repression of protesters in Belarus is a matter of concern for the entire European continent – our common home. The Lukashenko regime must start listening to its people and guaranteeing them their constitutional rights to freedom of thought, belief and expression, in absence of the fear of reprisals or imprisonment. We call upon the authorities to immediately release the illegally detained political prisoners and put a stop to the wave of violent encounters between security forces and journalists, bloggers or other citizens.

ECR Co-Chairmen Ryszard Legutko and Raffaele Fitto

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