Belarusian authorities have detained journalist Pavel Mazheika since August 2022 on undisclosed charges.
On August 30, 2022, law enforcement agents in the western city of Hrodna searched the home of Mazheika, a former journalist with independent Poland-based online television station Belsat TV, and detained him, according to news reports and a report by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an independent trade and advocacy group that was banned in 2021 but continues to operate in the country unofficially.
Mazheika had been visiting his parents, Belarusian journalist Lyubov Luneva posted on Facebook. His father’s home was also searched, according to Viasna, a banned Belarusian human rights group that operates unofficially in the country.
On September 2, Mazheika was transferred to a pretrial detention center, though the reason for his detention is unknown, according to media reports. Viasna reported that Mazheika is facing a criminal case “for exercising his freedom of expression,” without providing further details.
On November 2, Belsat TV reported that Mazheika’s detention had likely been extended for a further two months since he was not released on November 1.
Mazheika’s wife Iryna Chernianka was quoted as saying by Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian-language service of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, that Mazheika had been working for Belsat TV since its creation and stopped before Belarusian authorities labeled the broadcaster as “extremist” in July 2021.
In March 2021, Mazheika was detained for three days in a case involving accusations of the rehabilitation and justification of Nazism, in relation to an exhibit at the Urban Life Center in Hrodna, which he was heading at the time.
In June 2002, Mazheika was convicted of libeling President Aleksandr Lukashenko and sentenced to two years of corrective labor over his reporting for independent weekly newspaper Pahonya, as CPJ documented. His sentence was later reduced to 12 months. He was one of the first journalists convicted under a criminal libel law passed in 1999, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison for libeling the president, according to CPJ’s research.
In September 2022, CPJ contacted Chernianka via messaging app to ask her about her husband’s health status but did not receive any reply.
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.