Belarusian police beat, detain journalist

Four Belarussian police officers on February 18, 2018, attacked Andrus (Andrey) Kozel, a cameraperson for the independent TV station Belsat, while he was live streaming to Facebook from inside a polling station in central Minsk, media reported.

Officers detained the journalist immediately after the attack and took him to a police station where authorities charged him with resisting law enforcement, according to the reports.

The next day, a local judge ordered Kozel’s release, and ruled that police should continue to investigate Kozel’s conduct, news reports stated.

If found guilty of resisting law enforcement, Kozel could face a 15-day jail sentence, according to reports.

During his court hearing, Kozel said that police officers had punched him with their hands and smashed his head through the glass door at the polling station, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported.

“There were three blows to my head, then [more blows to] my ribs and kidneys. Now, I have a headache and feel dizzy. No medical assistance was provided, all requests were ignored. Everything was covered with blood. Then, I was taken to the police station,” Kozel said, according to BAJ.

Police officers who gave testimony at the hearing refuted the journalist’s account and said Kozel refused to stop broadcasting and to leave the polling station. The officers said Kozel slipped on the floor and broke the glass door when officers tried to force him out of the polling station, according to BAJ’s report.

Kozel said in court that he would file a complaint against the police officers who attacked and arrested him, according to BAJ.

Belsat TV is an independent television station and a subsidiary of Poland’s Telewizja Polska that broadcasts into Belarus in Belarusian and Russian languages. Belarussian authorities have frequently harassed and intimidated its journalists, according to CPJ research.