Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski (center) is seen while on trial in Minsk, Belarus, on January 5, 2023. Russian journalist Yekaterina Yanshina was detained while attending his trial. (AFP/Vitaly Pivovarchik)

Belarus orders Russian journalist Yekaterina Yanshina detained for 15 days

Paris, January 10, 2023 — Belarusian authorities should immediately release Russian journalist Yekaterina Yanshina and let all members of the press work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On January 5, authorities at a court in Minsk, the capital, detained Yanshina, a journalist and human rights activist with the Russian human rights center Memorial, while she attended the trial of four people affiliated with the banned Belarusian human rights group Viasna, according to multiple media reports, Twitter posts by Memorial, and Siarhei Sys, a journalist and activist with Viasna, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

Authorities accused Yanshina of disrupting the proceedings by taking photographs and reporting, and then charged her with disorderly conduct for allegedly being uncooperative after she was removed from the proceedings; on January 6, a Minsk court ordered her to be detained for 15 days, according to those sources. She is being held in Akrestina temporary detention center in Minsk, according to media reports.

Sys told CPJ that Yanshina attended the trial as “a journalist and an observer.”

“Journalist Yekaterina Yanshina’s arrest during a political trial is a grim encapsulation of Belarusian authorities’ attitude toward dissenting voices and independent reporting,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately release Yanshina and let journalists cover matters of public interest without fear of arrest.”

Natalia Sekretaryova, the head of the Memorial human rights center’s legal department, told CPJ via messaging app that Yanshina did not take any video or photos, and the Viasna trial “was open, so anyone could attend it.”

Memorial reported “gross violations” at Yanshina’s disorderly conduct trial on January 6, including a lack of evidence and that she was unable to speak to a lawyer in person.

Yanshina also works as an editor for a historical podcast by the Memorial Society, a sister group of the human rights center, and as a reporter for the independent news website Advokatskaya Ulitsa, where she covers issues pertaining to lawyers’ rights, according to the Memorial Society and Advokatskaya Ulitsa chief editor Yekaterina Gorbunova, who communicated with CPJ via email.

“Yekaterina is an incredibly brave, responsible and professional journalist,” Gorbunova told CPJ.

In October 2022, Ales Bialiatski, one of the Viasna representatives on trial, received the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Memorial and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties.

CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment but did not receive any response.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its third paragraph to more clearly describe the circumstances surrounding Yanshina’s detention.]