Belarusian journalist Aliaksandra Kvitkevich was arrested in November 2020 while covering a protest on charges of “participating in an unsanctioned event,” and sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest. She was one of dozens of journalists detained for documenting widespread demonstrations in the second half of 2020 calling on President Aleksandr Lukashenko to resign.
Kvitkevich works as a staff reporter for the independent Belarusian news website Tut.by and a freelance reporter for the independent news site Novy Chas, and covers politics and economics, according to news reports. In the months prior to her arrest, Kvitkevich covered nationwide protests that erupted after the August 9, 2020, presidential election in which Lukashenko claimed victory, according to a CPJ review of her work.
Police arrested Kvitkevich on November 16, 2020, in downtown Minsk, the capital, at the “Rally of Retirees,” a protest demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, according to news reports and Marina Zolatava, chief editor of Tut.by, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. Zolatava told CPJ that Kvitkevich was not participating in the rally but was covering it on assignment for Tut.by. The journalist was sending live updates from the protest to the editorial office but was wrongly accused of “taking an active part in the rally and shouting slogans,” according to Zolatava. Kvitkevich was wearing a journalistic badge when she was detained, according to news reports. Up until the court session on November 18, Kvitkevich was held at the Leninskiy district police department, according to Spiski.Live, a volunteer-run Belarusian website that tracks detentions of local protesters and journalists who cover the protests.
Police in Belarus have been routinely arresting and charging journalists covering the antigovernment protests with “participating in unsanctioned rallies,” and sentencing them to short stays in prison or fines, CPJ has documented.
On November 18, 2020, Leninskiy district court in Minsk found Kvitkevich guilty of “participation in an unsanctioned event” and sentenced her to 15 days of administrative arrest, according to news reports. The evidence cited for the charges was the testimony of an unnamed police officer, who claimed to have witnessed Kvitkevich shouting slogans and participating in the November 16 rally, according to reports.
According to Barys Haretski, the deputy head of the Belarussian Association of Journalists, an independent trade group, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, Kvitkevich pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied participating in the rally.
She was detained in the Center for the Isolation of Offenders in Minsk, informally known as the Akrestsin detention center, and was released in the morning of December 1, 2020, according to Haretski. Haretski told CPJ that she did not report any health issues in detention.
In late November 2020, CPJ emailed a request for comment to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, but did not receive any response.