Vilnius, Lithuania, November 29, 2021 — Belarusian authorities should immediately release journalist Andrey Kuznechyk and stop detaining independent journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 25, Kuznechyk, a freelance correspondent for Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian-language service of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), returned to his home in Minsk, the capital, after going out for a bike ride, accompanied by four men dressed in plain clothes, according to Radio Svaboda, citing the journalist’s wife Alesya Rak.
The four men searched the apartment and took mobile phones belonging to the journalist and his wife and money, Rak told RFE/RL. They then ordered Kuznechyk to go with them and said they were taking the journalist for a couple of days without disclosing charges against him, Rak said.
Rak told RFE/FL that the men did not identify themselves as law enforcement, but RFE/RL President Jamie Fly described them in a report by RFE/RL as “agents of the regime” who “kidnapped” Kuznechyk for “nothing more than being a journalist.”
Barys Haretski, the deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, a local trade and advocacy group operating unofficially in the country since it was banned this year, confirmed the arrest in a phone call with CPJ.
“Authorities in Belarus should stop persecuting journalists, searching their apartments, and detaining them for doing their jobs,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna in New York. “Belarusian authorities must immediately release journalist Andrey Kuznechyk and free all jailed journalists.”
Kuznechyk is in the Center for the Isolation of Offenders, informally known as Akrestsin detention center, in Minsk, according to Haretski.
Belarusian authorities have blocked RFE/RL’s Belarusian service since August 2020, and authorities had annulled the accreditation of all Belarusian journalists working for foreign outlets in October 2020, according to BAJ.
CPJ could not locate contact information for Rak. CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but nobody picked up the phone.