Paris, February 14, 2023 — Belarusian authorities should disclose the reason for the recent detention of journalist Vyacheslau Lazarau or free him immediately, and ensure that no members of the press are jailed for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On February 9, law enforcement in the northeastern city of Vitebsk detained Lazarau after searching his home as part of an unspecified criminal investigation, according to media reports and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile. Authorities did not disclose the reason for the journalist’s detention.
Lazarau is a freelance camera operator who has covered local news and was previously detained in 2020 while documenting the protests against President Aleksandr Lukashenko, according to media reports.
“Belarusian authorities are continuing their routine of detaining journalists in total secrecy, without any information made public about their case,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately reveal any charges filed against Vyacheslau Lazarau or free him at once, and ensure that no journalists are jailed for their work.”
According to relatives quoted in those news reports, police officers threw Lazarau on the floor and tied his hands behind his back during his arrest, and seized cell phones and a video camera from his home; police separately confiscated cell phones and a laptop from his wife’s home.
Authorities previously fined Lazarau in 2018 and 2019 for “illegal production of media products,” those reports said.
CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment, but did not receive any response.