Paris, March 23, 2023—In response to multiple news reports that a Belarusian court sentenced journalist Henadz Mazheyka to three years in prison on Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The sentencing of Belarusian journalist Henadz Mazheyka, simply for his journalistic work, shows once again how authorities have brazenly pursued trumped-up criminal cases against members of the press,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities should drop all charges against Mazheyka, release him alongside all other imprisoned journalists, and let the media work freely and without fear of reprisal.”
Authorities detained Mazheyka, a correspondent for the now-shuttered Belarusian edition of the Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, in October 2021.
On Thursday, March 23, a court in Minsk convicted him of inciting hatred and insulting President Aleksandr Lukashenko and sentenced him to three years in prison, according to those reports, Viasna, a banned human rights group, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile, and a Telegram post by the Belarus Supreme Court. He pleaded not guilty, according to media reports
Mazheyka’s trial started on December 1, 2022, and was delayed multiple times, according to BAJ. The charges stem from an article he published about Andrei Zeltser, an opposition supporter who died in a shootout with KGB officers in September 2021.
CPJ was unable to immediately determine whether Mazheyka intends to appeal the sentence.
Belarus was the world’s fifth worst jailer of journalists, with at least 26 journalists behind bars on December 1, 2022, including Mazheyka, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.