On December 14, 2021, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Ihar Losik was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Belarus court.
Losik, a prominent blogger who is also a social media consultant for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, was arrested on June 25, 2020, and accused by authorities of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” ahead of the vote.
In December 2020, Losik started a hunger strike to protest a new charge against him. Losik’s colleague, blogger Anton Matolka, said that Losik was additionally charged on December 15 with helping prepare mass disorder. Losik was initially charged with helping prepare for violations of public order, which has a maximum punishment of three years in prison. If found guilty of the latest charge, Losik faces up to eight years in prison.
Losik’s wife, Darya Losik, also went on a hunger strike to support her husband.
On January 25, 2021, Losik ended his hunger strike citing the “unbelievable wave of solidarity” among his Belarusian compatriots in deciding to end the protest.
He is among several contributors to RFE/RL in Belarus who had been detained leading up to and following the country’s August 9, 2020, presidential election, which some human rights groups say was rigged to hand Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term.
Numerous Belarus Service journalists have been arrested, beaten, and jailed throughout the election season, including RFE/RL’s Anton Trafimovich, who suffered a broken nose after being seized by riot police.
At least 17 independent journalists in Belarus carried out 15-day jail sentences for their work, including veteran RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich. Hruzdzilovich was joined in jail by five of his RFE/RL colleagues, who each served between eight- and 15-day sentences for reporting on the continuing post-election protests
The accreditations of RFE/RL journalists in Belarus, along with those of all other reporters working for foreign mass media in the country, were canceled by a government decree on October 2. This action followed a months-long campaign of harassment, violence, and censorship against RFE/RL in the country, including the ongoing blockage of the Belarus Service’s website svaboda.org since August 21, 2020.
On October 18, 2022, Losik’s wife Darya Losik was wrongly detained for “facilitating extremist activities,” after giving an interview with the Polish-based Belsat television channel. USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett condemned the detention stating, “Going after family members is just another desperate attempt by the government to silence its critics and block Belarusians’ access to information.”