Belarus law enforcement officers are seen in Minsk on August 14, 2020. Authorities recently detained journalists Dzmitry Harbunou and Pavel Padabed. (AFP/Sergei Gapon)

Belarusian journalists Dzmitry Harbunou and Pavel Padabed detained on undisclosed charges

Paris, January 26, 2023 — Belarusian authorities should publicly disclose the reason for the arrests of journalists Dzmitry Harbunou and Pavel Padabed and ensure that no journalists are jailed for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On January 18, Harbunou, a blogger based in the western city of Brest, appeared in a video published by a pro-government Telegram channel that showed him in detention, according to media reports and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile. CPJ was unable to immediately determine when he was detained.

Separately, on January 20, law enforcement officers detained Padabed, a camera operator who formerly worked with independent media outlets, in the capital city of Minsk and searched his home, according to media reports and reports by the BAJ and Viasna, a banned human rights group.

Authorities did not disclose the reason for either journalist’s detention, according to those sources.

“Belarusian authorities’ secrecy around the detentions of Dzmitry Harbunou and Pavel Padabed is deeply disturbing,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately reveal any charges filed against them, and ensure no journalists are jailed for their work.”

In the video published by a pro-government Telegram channel, Harbunou is seen saying that he used to work with the independent news websites Brestskaya Gazeta and Nasha Niva, filmed protests for Brestskaya Gazeta, and that he was detained for reposting the personal data of a police officer and insulting President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

That Telegram post claims that Harbunou also worked for the banned Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV.

According to the BAJ, Harbunou helped run the Narodnyy Reporter YouTube channel, which has about 42,000 subscribers and covered politics, until it stopped updating in January 2022. BAJ deputy head Barys Haretski told CPJ via messaging app that he did not have any information about Harbunou’s more recent journalistic work.

In March 2017, authorities detained Harbunou for 15 days for covering a protest in Brest, as CPJ documented at the time. 

According to relatives quoted in a BAJ statement, Padabed’s computer and other “data carriers” were missing from his apartment after authorities searched it, and his current location is unknown.

Authorities previously detained Padabed in 2011 and 2020 for covering protests, according to that statement.

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