Belarusian authorities arrested Andrei Aliaksandrau, founder and chief editor of the news website Belaruski Zhurnal, in January 2021. He faces charges of violating public order for allegedly paying the court fines of journalists and activists arrested covering the protests against President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s contested August 2020 reelection. Aliaksandrau also faces a tax evasion and treason charges.
Aliaksandrau is a former deputy director of the independent Belarusian news agency BelaPAN, and a former staff member of the London-based non-profit press freedom organization Index on Censorship, according to his former employer. Belaruski Zhurnal covers social and political issues in Belarus, including the COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence.
Authorities arrested Aliaksandrau on January 12 and charged him with violating public order, according to news reports and Barys Haretski, deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an advocacy and trade group that was banned by the government in 2021 but continues to track journalist detentions from inside Belarus, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
On June 30, authorities charged Aliaksandrau with treason, according to news reports. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years imprisonment, according to those reports and the country’s criminal code. Authorities have not stated the grounds for the treason charge, those reports said. On August 27, the Belarusian Investigative Committee announced that Aliaksandrau was charged with tax evasion, according to banned Belarusian human rights organization Viasna, which continues to operate in the country unofficially. If found guilty, the journalist could face up to seven years in prison, according to the Belarusian criminal code.
Aliaksanrdrau is held at the Valadarskaga detention center in Minsk, the capital, according to Viasna.
In September, authorities extended Aliaksandrau’s pretrial detention until November 12 2021, and then on that day extended it for another month, according to BAJ and Haretski.
In November 2021, CPJ called the Ministry of Interior’s press service but the phone was not answered. CPJ also emailed a request for comment to the Belarusian National Press Center, which covers the activities of the president, the national assembly, the council of ministers, the Belarus president’s administration, and other government bodies, but did not receive any response.