Belarusian journalist Yury Hantsarevich, a reporter for the independent news website Intex-Press, is serving a prison sentence of two years and six months after being convicted in July 2022 of facilitating extremist activities. Belarusian authorities accused him of sending materials to media designated as “extremist” in the country.
Belarusian police detained Hantsarevich on April 27, 2022, according to Viasna, a banned human rights group that continues to operate unofficially.
On May 5, the pro-government Telegram channel Obratnaya Storona published a video in which Hantsarevich is seen “confessing” to sending materials to extremist media outlets. The video does not identify Hantsarevich by name, but his identity was confirmed by the independent news website Mediazona.
According to Obratnaya Storona and Mediazona, authorities in the western city of Baranavichy had charged Hantsarevich with facilitating extremist activities and sentenced him to be held for 10 days in a separate administrative case.
In the video, Hantsarevich says that he sent a screenshot from a weather website showing a Russian military convoy to the independent Belarusian news website Tut.by via Telegram on February 24, and that he took a photo of what he thought were Russian aircraft at the Baranavichy military airfield in Belarus with a camera borrowed from Intex-Press and sent it to Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian-language service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on March 2.
On July 14, a court in the western city of Brest convicted Hantsarevich of facilitating extremist activities for sending photos of military aircraft at a Belarusian airbase to Radio Svaboda and sentenced him to two years and six months in jail, according to reports by his employer, Radio Svaboda, and Viasna.
Belarusian authorities designated Radio Svaboda as “extremist” in December 2021.
On September 20, the Belarus Supreme Court in Minsk upheld Hantsarevich’s sentence, according to reports by Intex-Press and other news outlets. Hantsarevich is currently held in Prison No. 3 in the northeastern village of Vit’ba, according to Intex-Press.
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.