Paris, March 6, 2023–In response to media reports reports that a Belarusian prosecutor on Monday requested that journalist Valeryia Kastsiuhova be sentenced to 10 years in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:
“A Belarusian prosecutor’s request that journalist Valeryia Kastsiuhova spend a decade behind bars is yet another illustration of the country’s brutal crackdown on the press, which has seen journalists routinely sentenced to lengthy prison terms,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should immediately drop all charges against Kastsiuhova, and release her along with all journalists jailed for their work.”
The prosecutor made the request during a hearing in the capital city of Minsk on Monday, March 6, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile, which said that a sentence in her case is expected on March 13.
Kastsiuhova, the founder and editor of independent analysis and opinion website Nashe Mneniye, has been detained since June 2021 on charges of conspiring to seize state power, calling for actions aimed at harming national security, and incitement to hatred; each charge carries up to 12 years in prison. Her trial began in Minsk on February 6, according to the BAJ.
CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment, but did not receive any response.
At least 26 journalists, including Kastsiuhova, were detained in Belarus at the time of CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census.