Katsiaryna Andreyeva

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Police detained Belarusian journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva in November 2020 while she was reporting live on protests in Minsk, the capital. A court charged her with “organizing and preparing of actions that grossly violate public order” and placed her in pretrial detention for two months. In February 2021, a court sentenced her to two years in jail. In July 2022, another court convicted her of treason and sentenced her to eight additional years in prison. She was one of dozens of journalists detained for documenting nationwide protests after the disputed August 2020 presidential election calling on President Aleksandr Lukashenko to resign.

Andreyeva, a staff correspondent of a Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV in Belarus, covers socio-political events in text and video.

Police arrested Andreyeva and her colleague, camerawoman Daria Chultsova on November 15, 2020, 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 journalists were broadcasting street clashes between security officials and the defenders of a memorial to Raman Bandarenka, according to a Belsat TV report.  Bandarenka was a Belarusian man who had died on November 12 from head trauma allegedly inflicted by law enforcement officers. 

Approximately 10 law enforcement officers broke down the door of the apartment, arrested Andreyeva and Chultsova without explaining the reasons for the arrest, and took the journalists to the Oktyabrskiy district police department, according to a Belsat TV report and Andreyeva’s husband Ihar Ilyash. 

Ilyash, a Belsat TV reporter, was himself detained on November 24 and sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest, according to a Belsat TV report and CPJ research. 

On November 17, the Oktyabrskiy district court found Andreyeva guilty of participating in an unsanctioned protest action on November 15 and sentenced her to seven days of administrative arrest, according to a Belsat TV report and Barys Haretski, the deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an independent advocacy and trade group that was banned in 2021 but continues to track journalist detentions from inside Belarus.

Three days later, a court charged Andreyeva with “organizing and preparing of actions that grossly violate public order” and placed her in pretrial detention for two months, according to the Belsat report and Haretski. That charge provides for a maximum penalty of four years in prison, according to Article 342, Part 1, of the Belarusian criminal code.

After Andreyeva’s November 15 arrest, she experienced a strong headache, threw up, and fainted, hitting her head on the floor of the police department, according to a Belsat TV report and Ilyash.

Andreyeva was taken under guard to the Minsk hospital No. 9, where doctors prescribed her mandatory rest and a consultation with a neurologist the following day, according to those sources. However, she was returned to the police department the same day and did not see a neurologist before being taken to Minsk’s Center for the Isolation of Offenders, informally known as the Akrestsin detention center, on November 16.

Ilyash told CPJ that during the first days of detention, Andreyeva’s condition worsened. She and 10 others were put in a cell designed for four people, he said, and forbidden to sit or lie down during the day despite being prescribed rest.

On February 18, 2021, the Frunzienski District Court of Minsk found Andreyeva and Chultsova guilty and sentenced them to two years in prison, according to Viasna. On April 23, the Minsk City Court upheld the sentence on appeal.

On April 7, 2022, Ilyash announced on Facebook that his wife had been charged with state treason following an investigation “conducted in complete secrecy,” and that authorities had not disclosed any information about the charge. The charge carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, according to Article 356 of the Belarusian criminal code.

During a closed hearing on July 13, a court in the southeastern city of Homel convicted Andreyeva of “giving away state secrets,” a form of treason, and sentenced her to an additional eight years in prison, according to media reports and Viasna.

Prior to the treason conviction, she had been scheduled to be released on September 5, BAJ reported.

On September 20, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld Andreyeva’s sentence, Belsat TV reported. The court amended her indictment and replaced “giving away state secrets” with “espionage,” Belsat TV said. 

On October 24, the Ministry of Interior added Andreyeva to its list of people involved in extremist activity, media reported. 

Andreyeva is held in Penal colony No. 4 in the southeastern city of Homel, according to Viasna and a Facebook post by Ilyash. 

Ilyash told CPJ via messaging app in October 2022 that he had seen Andreyeva on September 21. “Katya noticeably lost weight, but in general she felt fine. She did not complain about her health. She does not lose hope for a quick change,” he said.

In September 2022, CPJ called the Ministry of Interior’s press service, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies.