Washington, D.C. — RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the Belarusian government’s apparent plans to file new charges against prominent blogger and RFE/RL social media consultant Ihar Losik who has been detained since June 2020. In response, Losik reportedly declared a new hunger strike after attempting to slit his wrists.
Said Fly, “All of us at RFE/RL are deeply distressed by the new charges against Ihar, and his deteriorating health situation. Journalism is not a crime and Ihar has been unjustly detained for far too long. Ihar and his family should not be tortured in this way. I urge Alexander Lukashenko to release Ihar immediately so he can be reunited with his wife and daughter.”
According to Losik’s wife, Darya, citing his lawyer, Losik acted immediately after learning of the as-yet-unknown charges during a meeting with an investigator and the lawyer at Belarus’ notorious Zhodzina prison. Losik has been held in pre-trial detention at Zhodzina for the past 260 days, charged with “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the controversial August 9 presidential election in Belarus.
In mid-December 2020, additional charges were filed against Losik that that could result in an eight-year prison term if he is convicted. In response, Losik began a nearly six-week hunger strike that he ended in late January, citing an “unbelievable wave of solidarity” among his Belarusian compatriots.
But the blogger’s state of mind apparently declined soon afterward based on a handwritten letter that he wrote on February 18, after learning of the sentencing of two Belsat journalists to two-year terms for reporting live from an anti-government rally in November 2020. Losik’s letter was published on Telegram on March 11 by the Viasna Human Rights Center.
In his letter, Losik said he believed everyone who has protested against the government will be jailed and those who aren’t will leave or be silenced.
“I have no illusion. I think it’ll be about five more years, and by that time I will have died. I no longer have any desire to do anything,” Losik wrote. “So much has already been done, and all for naught: Nothing influences anybody. I’ll say it honestly: I doubt anything will change.”
“Russia will assist with money, and that’s how it will remain for several years to come. That’s why I’m thinking I have to somehow prepare myself. Because I’ve grown tired of waiting and hoping for something good while, each week for the past eight months, things only deteriorate,” he said.
Losik wrote of a sense of helplessness, saying it was sad, but he saw no reason to believe otherwise and said he didn’t want his wife to witness a trial. “Better they should just quickly shoot me, so as not to have to witness all that.”
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Deputy Director of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC