Belarusian authorities detained former journalist Andrei Tolchyn in September 2023. He is being held on charges of creating or participating in an extremist group If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Tolchyn was previously a freelance camera operator.
Belarusian authorities have jailed an increasing number of journalists for their work since 2020, when the country was wracked by mass protests over the disputed reelection of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Arrest and detention
On September 27, 2023, authorities in the southeastern city of Homel detained Tolchyn and placed him under arrest for 72 hours, according to media reports and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile.
After 72 hours, Tolchyn was not released and was instead transferred to a pretrial detention center, BAJ reported.
On September 28, authorities searched Tolchyn’s home as part of an unspecified “extremism” case and seized his equipment, including a laptop, according to a BAJ representative, who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
On October 16, BAJ reported that Tolchyn was charged with calling for actions aimed at harming national security. On November 27, BAJ reported that Tolchyn was actually charged with “creating or participating in an extremist group.” If found guilty, Tolchyn faces up to seven years in prison, according to Article 361-1 of the Belarusian criminal code.
Tolchyn is held at a pretrial detention center in Homel.
CPJ could not locate contact information for Tolchyn’s family.
In October 2023, CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies.