New York, February 8, 2022 – Belarusian authorities should immediately release journalist Uladz Hrydzin and allow him and the country’s media to work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Monday, February 7, the Frunze district court in the capital Minsk sentenced Hrydzin, a freelance photojournalist who formerly contributed to the Belarusian service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), to 13 days in prison on charges of “disobeying police,” according to RFE/RL; media reports; a report by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an independent trade and advocacy group; and BAJ’s deputy chair Barys Haretski, who spoke to CPJ via a messaging app.
The charges followed an incident on Friday in which the journalist allegedly refused to allow police into his apartment, according to those sources. Hrydzin denied the charges in court.
“The absurd charges against journalist Uladz Hrydzin show how much Belarusian authorities are afraid of independent reporting,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Photojournalists provide the most objective information from inside Belarus, where unbiased information has been suppressed, and Hrydzin should be immediately released and allowed to continue his work.”
On Friday, Hrydzin stopped responding to messages and phone calls, and on Sunday, when relatives checked his apartment, they saw the journalist’s belongings scattered on the floor and noted that his laptop and camera were missing, according to those reports. Later, the relatives learned that law enforcement had raided Hrydzin’s apartment and took him to Akrestsin, a pre-trial detention center.
RFE/RL is “deeply concerned by news of the arrest of our former RFE/RL colleague and condemn the Belarusian government’s ongoing campaign to silence journalists and prevent them from reporting the truth,“ said Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL’s editor-in-chief, in a statement.
Authorities stripped Hrydzin of accreditation that allowed him to work officially in Belarus in August 2020, according to RFE/RL.
In September 2020, Hrydzin was detained and sentenced to 11 days in prison after the Frunze district court found him guilty of participating in an unsanctioned protest, as CPJ documented at the time. Belarus held at least 19 journalists behind bars for their work at the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census on December 1, 2021.