Ihar Losik, a freelance contributor for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, was detained on June 25, 2020, in advance of Belarus’ rigged election in August 2020. He was tried on charges including “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and “preparation for participation in riots.” Following a five-month closed-door trial, Losik was convicted on December 14, 2021, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After his appeal was denied on June 1, 2022, Losik was transferred to the Navapolatsk hard labor colony. In June 2022, the Lukashenka regime added him to Belarus’ terrorist watch list.
Since his arrest, Losik has faced severe physical and psychological pressures, including torture and two debilitating hunger strikes. Prison authorities have sought to affect Losik’s mental state with frequent transfers to different cells and by denying mail privileges for extended periods of time. Losik is currently being held incommunicado. His family has not heard from him since February 2023. Reports suggest he suffered self-inflicted injuries during an incident on March 15, 2023.
On October 18, 2022, Belarusian authorities detained Ihar Losik’s wife Darya Losik. On January 17, 2023, she was sentenced to two years in prison for “facilitating extremism.” The charge stems from an interview she gave to the Poland-based Belsat television channel on her husband’s imprisonment. USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett condemned this move, “Going after family members is just another desperate attempt by the government to silence its critics and block Belarusians’ access to information… Sentencing Ihar to 15 years was abhorrent; detaining Darya is cruel.” The Supreme Court of Belarus rejected Darya Losik’s appeal on March 21, 2023.
Ihar Losik is a former RFE/RL Václav Havel Journalism Fellow (2015-2016 cohort). In 2022, USAGM honored Losik with its David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award.
Losik’s case is not an isolated incident. As part of the Lukashenka regime’s larger crackdown on independent media, Belarus’ Interior Ministry added RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, known locally as Radio Svaboda, to its registry of extremist organizations on December 23, 2021. With this move, Belarusians who subscribe to Radio Svaboda online can now face up to six years in prison. Radio Svaboda’s website has been blocked in Belarus since August 21, 2020. The accreditation of all locally based journalists working for foreign media, including RFE/RL, were annulled by the Belarusian authorities in October 2020. Two RFE/RL journalists are currently imprisoned in Belarus. In addition to Ihar Losik, Andrey Kuznechyk has been wrongfully detained since November 25, 2021. Both Losik and Kuznechyk are recognized by the Belarusian human rights community as political prisoners.
The government continues to suppress press freedom in Belarus and employ ruthless tactics to silence dissent. Ihar Losik and Darya Losik’s cases underscore the dire situation faced by journalists and their families in Belarus. The international community, including USAGM and RFE/RL, continues to call for their release.