Andrei Tolchyn
Belarusian journalist Andrei Tolchyn was sentenced to 2.5 years on extremism and defamation charges on March 21, 2024. (Photo courtesy of, RFE/RL)

Belarusian court sentences camera operator Andrei Tolchyn to 2.5 years

New York, March 21, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for journalist Andrei Tolchyn’s immediate release after a Belarusian court on Thursday sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison for facilitating extremism and defaming President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“The 2.5 year prison sentence handed to journalist Andrei Tolchyn on unfounded charges is yet another demonstration of Belarusian authorities’ vindictiveness toward current and former members of the press—like Tolchyn—for their independent coverage of the country’s 2020 mass protests,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Belarusian authorities must immediately drop all charges against Tolchyn and release him, along with all other jailed journalists.”

A court in the southeastern city of Homel convicted Tolchyn of facilitating extremist activity and defaming the president, according to the banned human rights group Viasna and Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an advocacy and trade group operating from exile.

His trial began on March 5, and he has been detained since September 2023, when authorities searched his home and seized his equipment, including a laptop. Authorities have detained Tolchyn multiple times and fined him in connection to his work and coverage of the 2020 protests demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. Tolchyn left journalism in 2020.

CPJ was not immediately able to confirm whether the charges were connected to his 2020 reporting or if Tolchyn plans to appeal.

Belarus was the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists in CPJ’s 2023 prison census, with at least 28 journalists, including Tolchyn, behind bars on December 1.