New York, July 7, 2023—In response to a Belarusian court sentencing journalist Andrey Famin to seven years in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:
“The seven-year prison sentence handed down to Belarusian journalist Andrey Famin for his alleged involvement in a low-profile network of regional newspapers is proof that authorities will spare no one in their efforts to suppress independent voices,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities should drop all charges against Famin, release him immediately, and let the media work freely.”
On June 21, a court in the capital city of Minsk sentenced Famin to seven years on charges of calling for sanctions, participating in gross violations of public order, and creating an extremist formation, according to July 4 reports by the banned human rights group Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile.
Belarusian authorities detained Famin on October 27, 2022. Later that day, the pro-government Telegram channel Svodki Tsentra published a video in which Famin is seen saying that he was the editor of Vestniki, a Belarusian network of self-published regional newspapers, and that he was detained by police for his editing activities, according to multiple media reports and CPJ’s review of the video, which has since been taken offline.
In the video, Famin says that he started the Vestniki opposition newspaper network in 2020, and wrote and edited articles for the papers. He said he received a total of about US$700 for his work.
Vestniki’s regional papers merged into a single outlet, Belaruskiy Vestnik, after February 24, 2022, Famin says in the video. The newspaper was also distributed through its Telegram channel, which had about 300 subscribers when Famin was detained, and reported on politics, social issues, and the war in Ukraine. Belarusian authorities labeled Vestniki an extremist formation in December 2022.
CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment but did not receive any reply.
At least 26 journalists were imprisoned in Belarus at the time of CPJ’s 2022 prison census. Famin was not listed in that census because of fears that his inclusion could imperil his court case.