Belarusian journalist Pavel Mazheika was recently sentenced to six years in prison. (Photo:, RFE/RL)

Belarusian journalist Pavel Mazheika sentenced to 6 years in prison

New York, July 26, 2023—In response to a Belarusian court sentencing journalist Pavel Mazheika to six years in prison on Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“The sentencing of Pavel Mazheika to six years’ imprisonment once again exposes how Belarusian authorities use charges of extremism to jail independent journalists,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should drop all charges against Mazheika, release him immediately alongside all other imprisoned journalists, and stop retaliating against members of the press for their reporting.”

On Wednesday, July 26, a court in the western city of Hrodna convicted Mazheika of facilitating extremist activity and sentenced him to six years in a high security prison at the request of a state prosecutor, according to reports by the banned human rights group Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile.

Mazheika has denied the charges, those reports said. He plans to appeal his sentence to the Supreme Court, a BAJ representative told CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

The trial of Mazheika, a former journalist with independent Poland-based online television station Belsat TV who has been held since August 30, 2022, started on July 10. He was tried alongside Yuliya Yurhilevich, a lawyer who was also sentenced to six years in jail on Wednesday.

Authorities accused the journalist of posting information about Yurhilevich’s disbarment and the sentence of dissident Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin on Belsat’s website, according to Viasna and the BAJ representative. Yurhilevich allegedly shared this information with Mazheika over the phone in February and March 2022.

Authorities labeled Belsat TV as “extremist” in November 2021.

In June 2002, Mazheika was convicted of libeling President Aleksandr Lukashenko and sentenced to two years of corrective labor over his reporting for independent weekly newspaper Pahonya. His sentence was later reduced to 12 months.

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.