Washington, D.C. — RFE/RL President Jamie Fly expressed deep concern for the health and safety of Belarusian Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk, who was detained on November 26 by agents of the Belarusian government and remains in Belarusian custody despite the completion of two consecutive 10-day jail sentences.
Said Fly, “Andrey Kuznechyk has completed his sentences. As far as we know, Belarusian authorities continue to hold him, essentially as a kidnapped hostage. Andrey should be allowed to return to his family immediately. Journalism is not a crime.”
RFE/RL’s journalists and operations have been under severe pressure in Belarus for years by the government of longtime leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On December 3, a Belarusian court designated the Telegram and YouTube channels of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service as “extremist”. In addition, RFE/RL’s bureau in Minsk was raided and sealed by Belarusian security forces on July 16, 2021, and numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, and jailed for a collective 695 days since June 2020. In August 2020, RFE/RL’s journalists were stripped of their accreditations and the Belarus Service’s website has been blocked within Belarus.
This past Tuesday (December 14), prominent blogger and RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Belarusian court, following a five-month trial on charges widely considered to have been fabricated by Belarusian authorities, including “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.”
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