Washington — Today marks the 500th day of detention for RFE/RL journalist and prominent blogger Ihar Losik– a milestone of injustice for Losik and the Belarusian government, which continues to deny Losik his freedom, according to RFE/RL President Jamie Fly.
“Ihar was kidnapped from his home on June 25, 2020, and has been subjected to inhumane and unjust treatment for 500 days. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government fear the public accountability that is ensured in democratic states by free media. Belarusian authorities must end this injustice and immediately release Ihar – and all of the journalists they have imprisoned – so that Ihar can be reunited with his wife and young child.”
Losik, who was arrested in advance of the August 9, 2020, rigged presidential election that returned six-term incumbent Lukashenka to the presidency, is standing trial on charges including “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.” The four-month, closed-door proceeding, is in a two-week recess as Losik and the five other defendants in the trial prepare to respond to the charges, which are widely considered to have been fabricated by Belarusian authorities. A verdict in the trial is expected by the end of November.
Since his arrest, Losik has faced severe physical and psychological pressures, including two debilitating hunger strikes. He has only been allowed to see his wife once throughout his ordeal and has been denied any visits at all with his parents or his young daughter. Prison authorities have also sought to affect Losik’s mental state while in detention with frequent transfers to different cells and by denying mail privileges for extended periods of time.
Losik’s wife, Darya, spoke by phone on October 20 with U.S. Special Envoy to Belarus Julie Fisher, and met the previous day with European Union representatives, the latest signs that Losik’s plight remains a priority for the U.S. and European governments. Losik’s unjust detention was prominently noted in a statement by CSCE Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin and Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen on July 19, during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 9, in legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 20, and by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his statement supporting the April 19 reimposition of sanctions on nine state-owned Belarusian companies. U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Helsinki Commission, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, U.S. Congressman Bill Keating, Lithuanian Seimas Speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media, among others, have called for Losik’s release.
In addition to Losik’s long ordeal, RFE/RL’s bureau in Minsk was raided and sealed by Belarusian security forces on July 16, and numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
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Contact Martins Zvaners
Deputy Director of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC