Belarus arrests three journalists in media crackdown

Authorities in Belarus raided the places of work of an unbiased newspaper and arrested three of its journalists on Monday as a part of a relentless crackdown on media retailers and civil society activists.

Alyaksandr Mantsevich, editor of the Regionalnaya Gazeta (Regional Newspaper), and journalists Zoya Khrutskaya and Nasta Utkina, have been detained, stated the Belarusian Association of Journalists, or BAJ.

They have been taken into custody after the search of the newspaper’s workplace in Maladzyechna, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

BAJ stated {that a} whole of 64 searches have been performed during the last 10 days. Thirty-two journalists in whole are in custody, both awaiting trial or serving their sentences.

“The authorities have turned life into hell for independent journalists in Belarus with a conveyor belt of searches and arrests,” BAJ head Andrei Bastunets stated. “There is an impression that the authorities have decided to leave the country without journalists.”

On Monday, authorities additionally froze the financial institution accounts of the Belarusian PEN Center, an association of writers led by Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature.

Alexievich, a member of the opposition Coordination Council, left Belarus final 12 months after being summoned for questioning by the state investigative company.

On Monday, a courtroom in Minsk additionally handed out jail sentences starting from 5 to 9 years to 11 individuals who have been accused of coordinating “radical actions” and planning arson on a messaging app.

One of them, 26-year-old Yevgeny Propolsky, who was sentenced to eight years in jail, stated through the trial that investigators beat and tortured him to pressure confessions.

“They threatened me, beat and tortured me with electric current,” Propolsky stated. “They forced me to write a confessional testimony.”

The Viasna human rights centre recognised the 11 folks sentenced on Monday as political prisoners, saying there are a complete of 562 within the nation now.

Viasna stated the searches Monday focused civil society activists and human rights defenders within the cities of Brest and Pinsk in western Belarus.

Belarus was rocked by months of protests after President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s August 2020 election to a sixth time period in a vote that the opposition and the West noticed as rigged.

Political instability, sanctions

Belarusian authorities responded to opposition demonstrations with an enormous crackdown, together with police beating hundreds of demonstrators and arresting greater than 35,000 folks.

Leading opposition figures have been jailed or compelled to depart the nation, whereas unbiased media retailers have had their places of work searched and their journalists arrested.

The West has responded to the crackdown by imposing sanctions on Belarus.

The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada final month collectively imposed new sanctions on Belarus after a Ryanair passenger flight was grounded in Minsk on the pretext of a safety risk, with authorities arresting an opposition journalist and his girlfriend who have been on board.

The authorities in neighbouring Lithuania has accused Belarusian authorities of organising a circulation of migrants from the Middle East and Africa in retaliation.

Lukashenko, who has ordered to halt cooperation with the EU on stemming unlawful migration, stated Monday that Belarus may include the circulation of migrants if the bloc rolls again the sanctions.

A member of the Lithuania State Border Guard Service patrols the border with Belarus with a Belarusian, proper, and Lithuanian, second proper, border markers, near small city Kapciamiestis, some 160km (100 miles) of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania [File: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP]

“They have introduced sanctions to strangle us,” Lukashenko stated. “They take such action against the Belarusian people and they want us to protect them – listen, it’s really weird. If you want us to help you, don’t put a noose around our neck.”

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s fundamental challenger within the August 2020 election, was compelled to depart Belarus underneath official stress instantly after the vote.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday met with Tikhanovskaya, who urged larger stress on the regime that she says rigged final 12 months’s elections.

Blinken joined a gathering between Tikhanovskaya and State Department quantity three Victoria Nuland, referred to as a forceful critic of Moscow, in a present of help a day earlier than the Belarusian opposition chief holds conferences on the White House.


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