Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) condemned the Belarusian government’s decision to file new charges against Belarusian blogger and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) consultant Ihar Losik, who has been detained for more than 260 days on false charges.
“It’s unacceptable that reporting on the Belarusian election cost a respected journalist his freedom,” USAGM Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kelu Chao said. “Belarusian authorities should drop all charges against Ihar and immediately release him.”
In June 2020, Belarusian authorities detained Losik, accusing him of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of last August’s controversial presidential election in Belarus. Longtime incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims to have won the election in a landslide amid allegations of widespread fraud. Losik has been held in Belarus’ notorious Zhodzina prison ever since.
Authorities filed additional charges against Losik in mid-December 2020 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.
In addition to Losik, numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to cover the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations. Two journalists for Belsat, a Polish-based satellite television station aimed at Belarus, were sentenced in November 2020 to two-year terms for reporting live from an anti-government rally.
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