Detained Journalists in Belarus Face Charges for Covering Post-Election Protests

One of six RFE/RL journalists detained while covering post-election protests in Minsk on Aug. 27 is facing a charge of being a participant in an unauthorized mass demonstration.
He is among at least 35 journalists, and more than 260 people overall, who were detained during Aug. 27 protests in Minsk, according to a list compiled by the human rights center Vyasna.
The charge filed against Andrey Yaroshevich, a freelance camera operator working for Current Time, is an administrative offense that can result in a fine or a jail sentence. His case was being heard at a Minsk court on Aug. 28.
A total of six journalists working either for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service or Current Time — the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA — were detained while covering demonstrations in two different Minsk locations on Aug. 27.
The Belarus Service’s Aleh Hruzdzilovich, Andrey Rabchyk, and Ales Dashchynski were detained on Independence Square. Uladzimer Hrydzin, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, was detained during a demonstration on Freedom Square in Minsk.
All but Yaroshevich were later released.
In addition to Yaroshevich, three journalists who work for other media outlets also remained in the custody of Belarusian authorities on Aug. 28.
They also face charges of participating in an unauthorized mass rally — a violation of Article 23.34 of Belarus’s Administrative Offenses Code.Protesters rally against elections results they say were rigged, in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 27, 2020.The detentions came after nearly three weeks of protests against the official results of the August 9 election — which gave President Alexander Lukashenko a landslide victory. Demonstrators and opposition leaders are contesting those results, charging that the vote was rigged in Lukashenko’s favor.
The demonstrations have been met with a brutal police crackdown, with widespread evidence of beatings and torture of detained protesters.
The leading opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, told the European Parliament this week that at least six people have been killed in the crackdown and dozens of protesters have gone missing after being detained by authorities.
But the roundup of journalists who are covering the crisis appears to signal a new strategy by Belarusian authorities.
Demonstrators on Aug. 27 first assembled in the capital’s Freedom Square to continue their calls for Lukashenko’s resignation and fresh elections. Vyasna says 17 journalists working for Belarusian and foreign media were detained there.
Another 18 journalists were detained after the demonstration moved to Independence Square, where police dispersed a crowd of about 1,000 and detained more than 260 people.
The Interior Ministry says detained journalists were put on a minibus and transported to a police station where officers checked whether they had valid accreditation to work legally in the country.
All but four were reportedly released the same evening.
Belarus has received international criticism for the way its Aug. 9 election was conducted, and for the harsh treatment of post-election demonstrators.
The official vote tally showed that Tsikhanouskaya finished a distant second to Lukashenko, but she says she is the rightful winner of the vote.
Belarusian prosecutors have jailed two leading members of Tsikhanouskaya’s recently formed Coordination Council.
Other leading opposition figures also have been summoned for questioning as part of what authorities in Minsk have called a “criminal investigation.”
The Coordination Council’s stated aim is to negotiate with Lukashenko’s government for new elections, the release of political prisoners, and a peaceful transition of power.
 With reporting by Current Time and RFE/RL’s Belarus Service.

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