Paris, January 13, 2023 — In response to a Belarusian court’s sentencing of journalists Snezhana Inanets and Aliaksandr Lychauka to years of house arrest Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement condemning the restrictions on the journalists’ freedom:
“While it is a relief that Belarusian journalists Snezhana Inanets and Aliaksandr Lychauka will not be held in the country’s notorious prisons, their sentencing to years under house arrest is still a great injustice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should lift the restrictions imposed on the journalists, drop all charges against them, and let all members of the press work freely.”
On Friday, a court convicted Inanets, a reporter at the independent news website Onliner, and Lychauka, a local historian and reporter with independent news website The Village, of organizing or participating in gross violations of public order, according to a report by the Belarusian Association of Journalists and BAJ deputy head Barys Haretski, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
The court sentenced Inanets to two years of house arrest, and Lychauka to three years, according to those sources. The journalists, who are married to one another and were held in custody since October 6, were released following the verdict; Haretski told CPJ that they are presently free to leave their homes while they wait for the verdict to go into effect, but are barred from leaving the country.
CPJ was unable to immediately determine whether Inanets and Lychauka plan to appeal their convictions. If they do not appeal, Haretski told CPJ that the verdict will likely go into effect on January 23, as such sentences are normally enacted 10 days after they are decided.
According to Article 48-1 of the Belarusian Code of Execution of Criminal Sentences, a person under “home confinement” can go to work, but must be at home from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and during their free time, cannot leave the country or violate any laws, and is barred from consuming alcohol or going out for entertainment purposes. Authorities can carry out checks at any time of the day or night.
Belarusian authorities detained the couple in October 2022 and forced them to “confess” on video that they took part in the 2020 nationwide protests demanding the resignation of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Haretski told CPJ that both Inanets and Lychauka covered the 2020 protests as journalists.
CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee and the Pershamaysky district court for comment, but did not receive any replies.