The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) condemns the latest display of aggression against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reporters in Belarus, which occurred today when state security officers raided RFE/RL offices in Minsk and stormed the homes of the network’s journalists, detaining two.
“The world is seeing a collapse of press freedom in Belarus,” said USAGM Acting CEO Kelu Chao. “Independent reporters, such as those from RFE/RL, must be able to provide the citizens of Belarus the truth and, in doing so, they must be protected.”
Witnesses said officers broke through the door at RFE/RL’s Minsk bureau on July 16 as part of a media targeting sweep. Security officers searched the homes of RFE/RL correspondents Aleh Hruzdzilovich and Valyantsin Zhdanko. Hruzdzilovich and former RFE/RL correspondent Ina Studzinskaya, whose accreditation was annulled in October, were detained.
The July 16 raid is the latest example of a coordinated attack on press freedom in Belarus. Numerous RFE/RL Belarus Service’s journalists have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations since the controversial August 2020 presidential election in which longtime incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory amid allegations of widespread fraud. That includes RFE/RL social media consultant Ihar Losik, who has been detained since June 2020 on false charges. Authorities accused Losik of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of last year’s elections. Additionally, RFE/RL’s Anton Trafimovich suffered a broken nose after being seized by riot police.
“Authorities in Belarus must immediately release the RFE/RL reporters they have detained,” Chao emphasized.
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