Journalists Under Pressure in Belarus

The pressure on alternative voices in Belarus has increased in recent time. According to the popular Belarusian broadcaster Euroradio there have been several cases where journalists have been targeted.

On 22 June, Euroradio’s accredited journalist Pavel Sviardlou was detained near his house in Minsk by plain clothed men. He was charged with swearing and his lawyer was not allowed entering the courtroom despite Sviardlous request for the lawyer. Sviardlou was later that day sentenced to 15 days of arrest for “disorderly conduct”. Sviardlou has filed an appeal to the court but according to Euroradio it has not been considered yet.

The same day as Sviardlou was detained, vehicles with plain clothed police were parked outside of Euroradio’s office. The police officers entered the building and asked the doorkeeper for the Euroradio journalist Vitali Ruhain. Ruhain was later escorted to safety by colleagues, closely monitored by the plain clothed persons.

Furthermore, on 21 June, the correspondent of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Andrzej Poczobut, was arrested accused of libelling the president according to article 367 of the Belarusian criminal code. He risks five years in prison.

The arrest of Pavel Sviardlou and the increased pressure on journalists are directly linked to their professional activity. These cases are recent examples of the persecution of journalists and continuous infringements of freedom of expression in Belarus.