Stockholm, July 14, 2022 – In response to a Belarus court’s sentencing of journalist Yury Hantsarevich to two years and six months in prison on an extremism charge Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for authorities not to contest his appeal.
“Sentenced today for taking photographs, Yury Hantsarevich is merely the latest victim of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s relentless drive to outlaw reporting on inconvenient topics,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities must refrain from contesting Hantsarevich’s appeal and should release him and all other journalists currently behind bars or awaiting trial in retaliation for their work.”
Hantsarevich, a correspondent for the independent news website Intex-Press, was convicted of facilitating extremist activities for sending photos of military aircraft at a Belarusian airbase to Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, according to news reports and Viasna, a banned Belarusian human rights group. The journalist plans to appeal his sentence, those reports said.
Belarusian authorities designated Radio Svaboda as “extremist” in December 2021. Dozens of Belarusian journalists are currently serving prison terms or awaiting trial in connection with their coverage of protests against the country’s disputed 2020 presidential election or other controversial topics, as CPJ has documented.