New York, June 30, 2023—In response to a Belarusian court sentencing journalist Pavel Padabed to four years in prison on Friday, June 30, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“The sentencing of Belarusian journalist Pavel Padabed to four years’ imprisonment after a hasty two-day trial is a travesty of justice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in Amsterdam. “Authorities should drop all charges against Padabed, release him immediately alongside all other imprisoned journalists, and stop retaliating against members of the press for their reporting.”
On Friday, a court in Minsk, the capital, convicted Padabed of participating in an extremist formation and sentenced him to four years at the request of state prosecutors, according to reports by the banned human rights group Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile. Padabed’s trial began Wednesday.
Authorities accused the journalist of cooperating with the banned Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV and claimed that he was involved in filming video clips of “protest content” about murdered journalists Dmitry Zavadsky and Pavel Sheremet, although he was not credited. They also accused him of doing journalism for “self-serving motives” and financial gain.
Padabed, who has denied the charges, plans to appeal his sentence, a BAJ representative told CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
BAJ reported that authorities tapped Padabed’s phone and had access to his communications. Authorities detained Padabed in January 2023. He covered the nationwide protests following the disputed 2020 presidential election and was repeatedly detained in connection to his journalistic activity.
Belarus was the world’s fifth worst jailer of journalists, with at least 26 journalists behind bars on December 1, 2022, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census. In May, authorities similarly sentenced journalist Yauhen Merkis to four years on extremism charges.