Belarusian freelance journalist Ilya Dobrotvor was detained in late November 2020, while he was covering the “March of wisdom” protest rally in Minsk, the capital. He was one of dozens of journalists detained for documenting widespread demonstrations in the second half of 2020 calling on President Aleksandr Lukashenko to resign.
Dobrotvor is a Minsk-based freelance journalist covering social and political issues; he has worked as a journalist, both staff and freelance, for five years, including as a chief editor at the Belarusian news outlet Blizkie Novosti, according to Dobrotvor, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app after his release from detention on December 1, 2020. Dobrotvor is a deputy editor at the independent Belarusian news outlet Belaruskaya Prauda, where he works pro bono, according to the journalist. Since the beginning of the protests in August 2020, he has also been working as a freelance correspondent, writing reports for the liberal Russian broadcaster Business FM, according to Dobrotvor. He has also been contributing videos and photographs of the protests without byline or credit to another outlet, Dobrotvor told CPJ, without naming the outlet due to safety concerns.
Police detained Dobrotvor on November 30, 2020, while he was covering the “March of wisdom,” a protest rally organized by the Belarusian retirees demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, in Minsk, according to Barys Haretski, the deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an independent trade group, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, and news reports. The police took him to the Central police department in Minsk, Haretski told CPJ.
On December 1, 2020, the Central district court of Minsk found Dobrotvor guilty of participating in an unsanctioned event on November 30, issued him a fine of 1,350 rubles (US$351), and released him on the same day, according to Dobrotvor and news reports. Dobrotvor told CPJ that he stated his innocence in court.
Dobrotvor’s wife, Inna Dobrotvor, was arrested on November 29, 2020, while covering a protest, according to news reports and CPJ research. She was also released on December 1, 2020, Ilya Dobrotvor told CPJ.
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.
Dobrotvor told CPJ that he had no health complaints while in detention.
CPJ emailed a request for comment to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, but did not receive any response.