Journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva is seen in a court room in Minsk, Belarus, on February 18, 2021. Katsiaryna is facing up to 15 years in prison for alleged treason. (AP Photo)

Belarusian journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva facing up to 15 years in prison on treason charges

Paris, April 8, 2022 – Belarusian authorities should drop the treason charges against journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva, release her immediately, and stop charging and imprisoning members of the press over their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

“By charging imprisoned journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva with treason, Belarusian authorities show how far they are willing to go to retaliate against those who covered the 2020 protests demanding President Aleksandr Lukashenko resign,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately drop all charges against Andreyeva and release her, along with all other members of the press currently in detention.”

On Wednesday, April 7, Andreyeva’s husband Ihar Ilyash announced on Facebook that his wife, a correspondent with Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV, had been charged with state treason following an investigation “conducted in complete secrecy.” That charge was also reported by the banned Belarusian human rights group Viasna.

Ilyash wrote that authorities had not disclosed any information about the charge, and said a trial would likely begin in May behind closed doors. If convicted under Part 1, Article 356 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, Andreyeva could face up to 15 years in prison.

Authorities have held Andreyeva since November 2020, when she was detained along with her colleague, camera operator Daria Chultsova, while covering a rally calling for President Aleksandr Lukashenko to resign; in February 2021 she was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly organizing an illegal protest. She is being held in Jail No. 3 in the southeastern city of Homel, according to Viasna.

“She has been behind bars for 16 months. And now, five months before the end of her sentence, she suddenly faces a new charge for ‘treason,’” Ilyash wrote.

CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but no one answered.