Paris, April 20, 2022 – Belarusian authorities should release journalist Aksana Kolb immediately and drop any charges against her, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, April 20, law enforcement officers arrested Kolb, editor of the independent weekly Novy Chas, in Minsk, the capital, and ordered her to be held for up to 10 days, according to news reports, reports by her outlet, and a Novy Chas representative who communicated with CPJ via messaging app and requested not to be identified by name.
Kolb’s employer believes she is being held at the Akrestsin Detention Center in Minsk but had not received any official notice, and authorities have not disclosed any reason for her arrest, according to those sources.
“Aksana Kolb’s detention shows that the situation for journalists in Belarus remains extremely worrying, and that authorities are determined to target the country’s few remaining independent outlets,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities must immediately release Kolb without charge, along with all other journalists currently in detention, and let the media work freely.”
The outlet’s representative told CPJ that it was “standard procedure” for authorities to hold suspects in criminal cases for up to 10 days, after which they must release them, file official charges, or detain them for another alleged offense. The representative added that authorities often file charges in such situations, but it was “not completely impossible” for the journalist to be released without charge.
Minsk police raided the Novy Chas editorial office and Kolb’s home in October 2021, questioned the journalist, and released her after she signed a nondisclosure agreement. The outlet ceased publishing in print in August 2021; its website was blocked after that office raid in October 2021, but the outlet has resumed publishing on a new domain.
CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but no one answered.