CPJ is honored to present its 2021 International Press Freedom Award to Belarusian journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich.
As a staff correspondent for Tut.by, the largest independent news website in Belarus, Barysevich covered court and legal proceedings and social issues. When she began working at the outlet in early 2017, she had a column called “What if they came for you,” which was aimed at increasing readers’ legal literacy.
Barysevich began reporting on the large-scale demonstrations that erupted against the official results of the August 2020 presidential elections, in which Aleksandr Lukashenko was announced the winner. In November 2020, she published a report that stated a protester had died from a head injury inflicted by law enforcement officers. Her report contradicted authorities’ official statement, which said the protester was drunk during the incident that led to his death.
A few days after she published the report, masked police officers in plainclothes entered her apartment, searched it, and detained her on allegations of “violating medical confidentiality with grave consequences.” In March 2021, a court in Minsk convicted her on the charge, sentenced her to six months in jail, and fined her 2,880 Belarusian rubles (US$1,1105).
Barysevich was released on May 19, 2021, after serving a full sentence. The day before she was freed, Belarusian authorities raided the offices of Tut.by and the homes of its journalists and detained Maryna Zolatava, chief editor of the website, and at least two other correspondents on charges of tax evasion. Authorities are “waging a war against independent journalists” reporting on protests, Zolatava told CPJ.
Honoring Barysevich with an award enables CPJ to draw attention to the plight of journalists in Belarus, who are facing an unprecedented crackdown.