Iryna Slaunikava

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Belarusian journalist Iryna Slaunikava was arrested in October 2021 with her husband Aliaksandr Loika, who is not a journalist. 

Slaunikava is a Belarus-based journalist for the Poland-based independent Belarusian broadcaster Belsat TV, which extensively covered the 2020 protests against the contested reelection of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Authorities labeled Belsat TV as “extremist” in July, and also blocked its website and social media accounts within Belarus. 

Slaunikava is also the deputy chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an independent trade and advocacy group which was banned in 2021 but continues to operate in the country unofficially. 

On October 30, Belarusian authorities at Minsk National Airport detained Slaunikava and her husband when they returned from vacation in Egypt, according to BAJ. Authorities accused Slaunikava and her husband of storing and sharing articles by Belsat TV on their Facebook pages, according to news reports and Viasna, a banned human rights group that continues to operate unofficially. 

On November 1, the Pershamaiski District Court in Minsk charged and convicted Slaunikava and Loika of “distributing information containing calls for extremist activity” based on their Facebook activity, and sentenced each to 15 days in detention, according to the same reports. 

On November 16, the same court convicted them of “minor hooliganism” and sentenced them to 15 more days of administrative arrest, according to BAJ

According to Barys Haretski, deputy head of BAJ, as of early December the journalist has remained in detention past her completion of the second 15 day sentence.

In the first court hearing, Loika said that he and Slaunikava were transported from the airport to the Akrestsina Detention Center in Minsk, according to BAJ.

Slaunikava spoke about the conditions in detention during the second court hearing, saying that her cell inmates had lice and that she wasn’t allowed letters or telegrams, according to BAJ

Haretski said she is still imprisoned there and has no health issues. 

On November 3, the Interior Ministry decreed that any citizens who used “online resources” to support Belsat TV would be considered members of an extremist group, according to media reports and BAJ

CPJ called the Pershamaiski District Court in Minsk, the Krychaw District Court, and the Interior Ministry for comment, but no one answered.

In November, CPJ also called the Ministry of Interior’s press service, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ also emailed a request for comment to the Belarusian National Press Center that covers the activities of the president, the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Belarus President Administration, and other government bodies, but did not receive any response.