Washington, D.C. — Acting U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Kelu Chao condemned today’s sentencing of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty consultant and popular Belarusian blogger Ihar Losik. He is one of six political prisoners sentenced to jail time today after a five-month closed door trial.
“Today’s 15-year sentence of Ihar Losik is a disgrace,” said Chao. “Journalism is not a crime, and the way Ihar and other journalists in Belarus have been treated is unacceptable. He should be released immediately.”
Also among those sentenced today was Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a popular video blogger who had intended to run for president against Alexander Lukashenko until he was disqualified and arrested. His wife, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, mobilized voters and ran in his place, winning the election according to independent election monitors. In July, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with Chao to discuss the need to support press freedom in Belarus and thank USAGM for its support in this effort.
“My thoughts are with Ihar’s wife and daughter, Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya, and all those affected by these harsh sentences,” added Chao. “This travesty confirms the ruling regime’s desire to limit Belarusians’ access to the facts, and it emboldens us as we inform, engage, and connect audiences in Belarus and around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
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