New York, February 18, 2021 – In response to today’s sentencing of Belarusian journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova to two years each in prison over their coverage of protests in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“These prison terms are naked political persecutions designed to bully into silence any journalist who would dare report independently on democratic protests in one of Europe’s most authoritarian states,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “Journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova should be free and President Aleksandr Lukashenko should ensure that they are.”
The Frunzensky District Court of Minsk, the capital, convicted Andreyeva, a correspondent for the Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV, and Chultsova, a camera operator for the outlet, of “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order” over their November 15, 2020, reporting on protests calling for the resignation of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, according to Barys Haretski, deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an independent press freedom and trade group, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, and CPJ research.
The journalists denied any wrongdoing, and Andreyeva said in a statement to the court that she believed the case was “politically motivated” and “retribution for my professional work,” according to reports. Haretski told CPJ the journalists intend to appeal their sentences.
The journalists were among the at least 10 members of the press detained in Belarus at the time of CPJ’s December 2020 prison census. “Katsiaryna Andreyeva” is a pseudonym the journalist uses for her work; her legal name is Katsiaryna Bakhvalova, according to news reports.