New York, August 31, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Belarusian court’s sentencing of journalist Larysa Shchyrakova to 3.5 years in prison for allegedly discrediting the country and facilitating extremism.
“By sentencing journalist Larysa Shchyrakova to 3.5 years in prison, Belarusian authorities are once again demonstrating their vindictiveness towards those who reported independently on the nationwide protests that shook the country in 2020,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “Belarusian authorities must drop all charges against Shchyrakova and release her immediately alongside all other imprisoned journalists.”
On Thursday, August 31, a court in the southeastern city of Homel convicted Shchyrakova and sentenced her to 3.5 years in prison and a fine of 3,700 Belarusian rubles (US$1,465). She does not plan to appeal the sentence.
The closed-door trial began on July 27. Authorities accused the journalist of posting on the internet alleged “false information” discrediting Belarus from August 2020 to December 2022 to “destabilize the situation in the country” and of collecting, creating, processing, storing, and transmitting information to the banned human rights group Viasna and the banned Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV.
Authorities detained Shchyrakova in December 2022. She worked as a freelance journalist from 2007 until February 2022, when she announced she was leaving journalism amid continued government harassment and detentions.
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.