Belarusian journalist Andrey Famin is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted in June 2023 on charges of calling for sanctions, participating in gross violations of public order, and creating an extremist group. Belarusian authorities detained him in October 2022.
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
Belarusian authorities detained Famin on October 27, 2022. Later that day, the pro-government Telegram channel Svodki Tsentra published a video in which Famin is seen saying that he was the editor of Vestniki, a Belarusian network of self-published regional newspapers, and that he was detained by police for his editing activities, according to multiple media reports and CPJ’s review of the video, which has since been taken offline.
The “confession” video does not identify Famin by name, but his identity was confirmed by the independent news website Nasha Niva.
In the video, Famin says he works as a copywriter and that he started the Vestniki opposition newspaper network in 2020, writing articles and edited texts for the papers. He received a total of about US$700 for his work, he says in the video.
Vestniki’s regional papers merged into a single outlet, Belarusskiy Vestnik, after February 24, 2022, Famin says in the video. The newspaper was also distributed through its Telegram channel, which had about 300 subscribers at the time Famin was detained, and reported on politics, social issues, and the war in Ukraine. Belarusian authorities labeled Vestniki an extremist group in December 2022.
On June 21, 2023, a court in the capital city of Minsk sentenced Famin to seven years on charges of calling for sanctions, participating in gross violations of public order, and creating an extremist group, according to a report by the banned human rights group Viasna. Authorities claimed Famin took part in a protest on August 30, 2020, Viasna reported.
On September 29, the Belarusian Ministry of Interior added Famin to its list of people allegedly involved in extremist activity, according to BAJ. In addition, the Belarusian State Security Committee added him to a list of people allegedly involved in terrorist activities, according to Viasna.
Famin is serving his sentence at the Prison No. 17 in the northeastern city of Shklow, according to Viasna.
CPJ could not locate contact information for Famin’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.
[Editor’s Note: CPJ did not include Famin in its 2022 prison census because it was still investigating the circumstances of his detention at the time of publication.]