Police detained Belarusian camerawoman Daria Chultsova in November 2020 while she was reporting live on protest actions in Minsk. A court charged Chultsova with “organizing and preparing of actions that grossly violate public order” and placed her under two months of pre-trial detention. 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.
Chultsova is a staff camerawoman for Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV in Belarus, and covers covering socio-political events and news, according to news reports. In the months prior to her arrest, she covered nationwide protests that erupted after the August 9, 2020, presidential election in which Lukashenko claimed victory, according to the same sources.
On November 15, 2020, police arrested Chultsova and her colleague, correspondent Katsiaryna Andreyeva, while the journalists were conducting a live video broadcast for Belsat TV from a 14th floor apartment located above Chervyakova street (known by the Belarusian opposition as “The Square of Changes”) in Minsk, the capital, according to news reports. The journalists were broadcasting clashes between the security officials and the defenders of the memorial to Roman Bandarenka that were taking place at the street below, according to those reports. Bondarenko was a Belarusian man who died on November 12 due to head trauma allegedly inflicted by the law enforcement officers, according to news reports.
Approximately 10 law enforcement officers broke down the door of the apartment, arrested Chultsova and Andreyeva without explaining the reasons for that arrest, and took the journalists to the Oktyabrskiy district police department, and after that to the Center for the Isolation of Offenders, informally known as Akrestsin detention center, both in Minsk, according to news reports.
On November 17, Oktyabrskiy district court in Minsk found Chultsova guilty of participating on an unsanctioned protest action on November 15, and sentenced her to seven days of administrative arrest, according to news reports and Barys Haretski, the deputy head of the Belarussian Association of Journalists, an independent trade group, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview. She was not released after serving the seven days in detention, according to the same reports.
When Chultsova was not released, news reports speculated that she was being held on criminal charges; however, her lawyer could not verify that information, due to a strict non-disclosure agreement that he signed, according to those reports. On November 30, 2020, a criminal charge of “organizing and preparing of actions that grossly violate public order” against Chultsova was disclosed in an appeal hearing that day at the Frunzenskiy district court in Minsk, according to news reports.
As of late 2020, Chultsova was awaiting trial in Zhodzina pre-trial detention center, where she was transferred from Akrestsin, according to Haretski.
If found guilty, she faces up to three years in prison, according to Belarusian criminal code. Her lawyer cannot disclose the details of her case due to the non-disclosure agreement, according to Haretski.
In 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.