Police detained Belarusian journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva in November 2020 while she was reporting live on protest actions in Minsk. A court charged her with “organizing and preparing of actions that grossly violate public order” and placed her in pretrial detention for two months. 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.
Andreyeva is a staff correspondent of a Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV in Belarus, and covers socio-political events in text and video, according to news reports and Andreyeva’s husband Ihar Ilyash, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. 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.
Katsiaryna Andreyeva is a pseudonym the journalist uses for her work; her legal name is Katsiaryna Bakhvalova, according to news reports.
On November 15, 2020, police arrested Andreyeva and her colleague, camerawoman Daria Chultsova, 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 security officials and the defenders of a memorial to Roman Bandarenka that were taking place at the street below, according to that report. Bandarenka was a Belarusian man who died on November 12 due to head trauma allegedly inflicted by law enforcement officers, according to news reports.
Approximately 10 law enforcement officers broke down the door of the apartment, arrested Andreyeva and Chultsova without explaining the reasons for that arrest, and took the journalists to the Oktyabrskiy district police department, according to news reports and Ilyash.
Ilyash, a Belsat TV reporter, was himself detained on November 24, 2020, according to news reports and CPJ research.
On November 17, 2020, 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 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.
On November 20, 2020, 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 news reports and Haretski. If found guilty, she faces up to three years in prison, according to the Belarusian criminal code.
On November 23, 2020, Andreyeva was transferred to the pretrial detention center in the city of Zhodzina, near Minsk, Ilyash told CPJ.
Andreyeva maintains her innocence and refuses to give testimony, according to news reports and Ilyash.
On July 14, 2020, police had detained Andreyeva for “violation of the order of organizing of holding mass events” during her livestreaming of a protest rally in Minsk, and she was released on the same day, according to a list of detained journalists published by the local human rights group Viasna.
On the day of her arrest on November 15, after Andreyeva was taken to the police department, she experienced a strong headache, threw up, and then fainted, hitting her head on the floor upon falling down, according to news reports and Ilyash.
Andreyeva was taken to the Minsk hospital No. 9, guarded by police officers, where the doctors prescribed her mandatory rest and a consultation with a neurologist the following day; however, she was not granted that consultation, and on the same day she was returned to the police department, according to those reports and Ilyash. On November 16, she was transported to the Center for the Isolation of Offenders, informally known as the Akrestsin detention center, in Minsk, according to those reports.
Ilyash told CPJ that during the first days of detention, Andreyeva’s condition worsened: she was among 11 cellmates placed in a cell designed for four people, and despite prescribed rest, the journalist was banned from sitting or lying down during the daytime. Ilyash told CPJ that Andreyeva has a health condition and takes daily medicine.
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.