Pavel Padabed

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Former Belarusian journalist Pavel Padabed is serving a four-year prison sentence after being convicted in June 2023 on charges of participating in an extremist group. He was detained in January 2023.

Padabed, a camera operator, worked with independent media outlets.

Belarusian authorities have jailed an increasing number of journalists for their work since 2020, when the country was wracked by mass protests over the disputed reelection of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Arrest and detention

On January 20, 2023, law enforcement officers detained Padabed in the capital city of Minsk and searched his home, according to reports by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an advocacy and trade group operating from exile, and Viasna, a banned human rights group. According to relatives quoted in the BAJ report, Padabed’s computer and other “data carriers” were missing from his apartment after authorities searched it.

On June 28, Padabed’s trial began. Authorities accused the journalist of cooperating with the banned Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV and claimed that he was involved in filming video clips of “protest content” about murdered journalists Dmitry Zavadsky and Pavel Sheremet, although Padabed was not credited in the videos, according to reports by Belsat TV and BAJ. They also accused him of doing journalism for “self-serving motives” and financial gain. Padabed denied the charges. 

Belsat TV and BAJ also reported that authorities tapped Padabed’s phone and had access to his communications. 

On June 30, the court convicted Padabed of participating in an extremist group and sentenced him to four years in prison at the request of state prosecutors, according to reports by Viasna and BAJ

On September 22, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld Padabed’s sentence, BAJ reported.

On October 6, the Belarusian Ministry of Interior added him to its list of people allegedly involved in extremist activity, according to Viasna and BAJ.

Padabed began serving his sentence at Prison No. 4 in the eastern city of Mahilou, according to Viasna. In October 2023, a source close to Padabed’s case told CPJ via messaging app that the journalist was transferred to Prison No. 17 in the eastern city of Shklow on September 30. 

The source, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, added that Padabed is being denied visits for the next three to four months. Padabed did not complain about his health, they said. 

“It’s rather hard for him, but he’s doing well, he’s making optimistic plans for the time when he comes out,” the source said, adding that Padabed will be able to apply for parole in February 2024. “All this is unlikely, of course, with `such,’ but we will try in any case.”

Padabed covered the nationwide protests following the disputed 2020 presidential election and has been repeatedly detained in connection to his journalistic activity. 

In October 2023, CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies.