Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) denounced the detentions of several journalists contributing to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) who had been covering protests in Belarus calling for the resignation of President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“Journalists with RFE/RL must be allowed to do their work in Belarus without fear of intimidation or arrest,” USAGM CEO Michael Pack said. “Threats to the freedom of the press and the universal principle of freedom of expression will not be tolerated.”
The four detained RFE/RL contributors are photo reporter Andrey Shauluha, cameraman Andrey Rabchyk, veteran reporter Ihar Karney, and chief video editor Yulia Kotskaya. Rabchyk was sentenced today to 15 days in jail for allegedly participating in an unsanctioned protest rally. Shauluha is to be tried tomorrow on similar charges. Kostskaya has been released from detention.
At least 17 independent journalists in Belarus are currently carrying out a 15-day jail sentence for their work, including veteran RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich, who was sentenced just this month.
Numerous Belarus Service journalists have been arrested, beaten, and jailed throughout the election season, including RFE/RL’s Anton Trafimovich, who suffered a broken nose after being seized by riot police.
In addition, RFE/RL social media consultant Ihar Losik remains in pre-trial confinement in the Belarus capital of Minsk. Losik, a prominent blogger who also previously worked with RFE/RL as part of the distinguished Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship, was arrested on June 25 and accused by authorities of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the vote.
“In the 30 years that we have been reporting from Belarus, we have never seen this amount of pressure on our people. This is a coordinated attack on press freedom and a further attempt to keep us from reporting on the current reality in Belarus,” said RFE/RL Belarus Service Director Alexander Lukashuk.
Belarus has seen ongoing mass protests since the country’s August 9 election, which protesters say was rigged to hand Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term.
Authorities have been sharply escalating their attacks against RFE/RL and other independent media. The accreditations of RFE/RL journalists in Belarus, along with those of all other reporters working for foreign mass media in the country, were canceled by government decree on October 2. This action followed a months-long campaign of harassment, violence, and censorship against RFE/RL in the country, including the ongoing blockage of the Belarus Service’s website svaboda.org since August 21.
Find out more
Contact Office of Public Affairs