Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

China Looking For Foreign Vaccine Options After Admitting To Ineffective Vaccines

This weekend, the director of China’s health agency claimed that Covid-19 vaccines being produced by private and state-run groups are not very effective. This announcement comes after an Oregon congressman began pushing for more effective and compassionate vaccine property rights to be shared among the world to end the pandemic more quickly.

The Associated Press initially reported that the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, claimed Chinese vaccines “don’t have a very high protection rate.” Sinovac is the privately-owned company that has been producing Covid vaccines in China. Sinopharm is a state-owned firm responsible for the same thing. International testing has revealed that the vaccines from both businesses are 50% effective in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms.

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Despite the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have both tested to be 97% and 94% effective respectively, Gao Fu casted doubt on mRNA technology in general, so both vaccines weren’t even put under consideration. This weekend, however, Gao Fu claimed that China is considering other vaccine options now, as their goal is to vaccinate 40% of it’s population by June; for reference they currently have about 5% of their 1.4 billion population vaccinated.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have claimed that 35% of US residents have received at least one of their shots by now. Earl Blumenauer is the Oregon Congressman who also discussed how access to effective vaccines “is a key to global herd immunity from COVID.”

“None of us are safe, we’re only a plane ride away form being reinfected.”

Several lawmakers share Blumenauer’s viewpoints, and have even signed a request to the Biden Administration to temporarily lift intellectual property rights to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. “The idea is for other countries to produce effective vaccines too.”

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“It’s in everyone’s interest to do this, we’ll only be safe when the whole world can be protected, but it’s hard when wealthy countries like the US bought up most of the initial supply of effective vaccines.”

“This risks further deepening of global inequities, sparking new tensions and divides, with really serious ramifications for stability and progress around the world. Letting Covid circulate in other countries will yield stronger variant strains, which may be resistant to current vaccines.”

Martha Newsome is the president of Medical Teams International, a Pacific Northwest-based organization that works to vaccinate people in poorer countries.

“It’s literally a human rights issue. I think sometimes we just think ‘I need to get my family vaccinated, I need to get my community vaccinated,’ but we will not get out of this pandemic isolation that we’re feeling until everyone is vaccinated.”

The pharmaceutical industry opposes sharing intellectual property rights, however, which Blumenaur claims is a “short-sighted, and frankly inhumane attitude to have when facing a global health crisis. If we don’t defeat this virus together, it’ll come back to bite us.”

Crown

Duke Of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, Has Died At The Age Of 99

Lifelong companion to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, has died this week, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement. He was 99-years-old. 

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family joins with people around the world in mourning his loss,” the palace said in a statement. 

In mid-February the duke was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London after feeling sick for a few days. The palace later confirmed he was being treated for an infection and would need heart surgery. 

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On March 1st Prince Phillip was transferred to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, also located in London, where he received continuous treatment for his infection before undergoing heart surgery. After a successful surgery, the duke was discharged in min-March. 

Given the UK’s current Covid-19 restrictions, it’s unclear as to what any tribute plans will look like for the prince. The Queen will need to sign off on any plans before they’re confirmed and it’s unknown if those plans were even made yet. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of the duke this week, claiming he’d “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”

The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving British consort. In 1947 he married who was then referred to as Princess Elizabeth in a wedding that helped ease a country’s stress from the damage done by World War II. 

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Throughout his seven decades of service, Philip was often accompanied by the Queen on royal engagements, but also conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He supported a multitude of philanthropic endeavors and was associated with over 800 organizations. He also founded the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, which is a “youth development program that operated in more than 130 countries and territories around the world,” according to the website. 

The duke was originally born the Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921. At just 18-months-old, his family left Greece when King Constantine was forced to abdicate after a military revolt. The family would later move to England in 1928. 

Philip became a decorated naval officer for his service during World War II, and when peace finally returned to Europe, he would go on to have one of the most public romances of the 20th century. 

Tributes for the duke have been appearing all throughout the world from Commonwealth nations, including India and Australia. According to CNN, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had “distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Covid Virus

India Surpasses 100,000 New Covid-19 Cases In A Single Day 

India reported a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases this week, surpassing more than 100,000 cases in a single day; this makes India the second country after the United States to report more than 100,000 cases in a given day. 

Maharashtra is reported as the worst affected state, with hospitals being completely overrun by sick patients. The state is also known as India’s richest, and has reported more than 57,000 cases overnight. The country’s daily infection rates have been on the rise since February, and most experts credit that to the slew of new variants, along with the easing of multiple restrictions from authorities; many citizens have stopped wearing masks and distancing themselves from one another. 

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The nation counted 103,558 new infections in a single day, giving India a total of 12.6 million cases; the highest after both the US and Brazil. The death rate in India is one of the lowest in the world for its size, with a total of 165,101 deaths. 

Overall though, India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. Some epidemiologists blame this rise on new virus variants completely. “The new variant, or variants of concern, probably explains a lot of it, rather than a simplistic explanation of behavior,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official who advises Maharashtra on its COVID-19 strategy, claimed that “India has found hundreds of cases of the virus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Cases in the state will continue to rise for a couple of weeks and the only way out is by vaccinating all adults. If we start doing this, by the end of April we will see a downward trend.” 

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India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, and has already injected more than 77 million doses into residents at home since they began distributing the vaccine back in January. The amount of Covid-19 vaccinations per capita occurring, however, is lower than a lot of other countries; including China which has a larger population and a larger amount of individuals vaccinated.

India is currently only vaccinating people over the age of 45, including all health and frontline workers who at this point are thought to be all vaccinated. Officials recently discussed increasing the amount of vaccinations being distributed and exported within the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the press about these efforts over the weekend as well. 

“It was highlighted that all the efforts are underway to secure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet the rising domestic requirements as well as to meet the genuine needs of other countries.”

Health ministers are also condemning the multiple election rallies that have been occurring throughout the nation that have gained crowds of tens of thousands of mask-less people. It’s reported that Maharashtra will begin closing its shopping malls, theaters, bars, restaurants, and places of worship this week and will work to impose a complete lockdown by the end of the week, especially in smaller cities.

World with Mask

World Leaders Come Together And Call For Pandemic Treaty 

Global leaders have joined together to call for a new treaty that would aim to help the world prepare for future pandemics. The call to action comes with a warning as leaders are concerned with the rising vaccine nationalism that wealthier countries are expressing while they hoard the patents for Covid-19 vaccines. 

More than 20 national leaders wrote a piece that was published to several media outlets this week. The leaders included France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Germany’s Angela Merkel, all of which expressed that the idea of another pandemic isn’t a question of “if” but “when,” so the world needs to unite to be prepared. 

The overall message of the piece is calling for a greater sense of unity among world leaders as they battle future viruses. Countries need to avoid having nationalistic attitudes due to the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all struggling, people are dying and getting sick everywhere, so we have to come together and co-operate with each other. 

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“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when.”

The warning comes as a multitude of countries continue to block the trading of vaccine supplies and patents from other lesser developed countries. The European Union and the UK have been in a battle over AstraZeneca’s contract to supply their shot due to the fact that some EU member states have expressed constantly that they oppose the trading bloc’s put in place with the vaccine. 

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had previously warned about the concept of “vaccine nationalism” and the type of damage it could do; including delaying the end to the pandemic itself. 

“We are committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics. We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” the leaders stated. 

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The leaders of the US, China, and Russia did not put their names on the piece; they’re also the main countries that are under fire for expressing vaccine nationalism since the first shot was approved. Tedros, however, claims that all WHO member states will be included in future discussions of an international pandemic treaty. 

“The open letter is being signed on an opt-in basis, but when the discussion on the pandemic treaty really begins all member states will be represented and included in those conversations,” Tedros explained. 

“There is quite significant support, not just through the op-ed but also through bilateral contact that we have with all of the nations across the world, including nations that did not sign this op-ed, but which are reacting quite positively to the idea,” President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said. 

Worldwide, there have been more than 127 million Covid-19 cases, and more than 2.7 million people have died. The articles calling for unity come after a multitude of surges appear throughout the world.

More Than 18,000 Evacuated In Australia Due To ‘Life-Threatening’ Floods 

More than 18,000 Australian residents have been evacuated in New South Wales (NSW) due to heavy rains and major flooding in the area which is causing some areas of the nation to resemble “island seas,” according to residents. 

The heavy rains have been impacting NSW since last Thursday but the flooding got really severe over the weekend. Images began circulating online of full roads, trees, and houses, completely submerged in water. Up to 38 areas across the state are considered to be natural disaster areas currently and 19 evacuation orders have been issued so far, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian who spoke at a news conference this morning. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, “much of the flooding has hit the mid-north coast, from Hunter Valley near Sydney to Coffs Harbour, but severe weather warnings have also been extended to include districts on the state’s south coast for Tuesday as the rains are forecast to shift. Heavy rainfall is also developing inland in the north of the state Monday, while in the east, life-threatening extensive flooding and heavy rain continues.”

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A severe weather warning has also been issued for Queensland which neighbors NSW.  According to Premier Berejiklian, the homes that were devastated by the 2019/2020 wildfires now have to cope with extreme flooding conditions.

“Communities who were battered by the bushfires are now being battered by the floods and a deep drought prior to that. I don’t know anytime in our state’s history where we’ve had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic. You’ve been through three or four incidents which are life changing on top of each other. It can make you feel like you are at breaking point.”

Some places have seen close to 40 inches of rain in less than a week, and increased rainfall of about 2-4 inches is expected to hit Sydney this whole week. The worst-affected areas so far have seen rainfall that has been up to five times as strong as what the nation normally expects for this time of year. 

Bureau of Meteorology’s Jane Golding said in a news conference that “the huge rainfalls have been driven by two weather systems colliding. A slow moving coastal trough and the approach of another system coming through from the west is pumping down tropical moisture into the state, which is then being whipped up by strong easterly winds.”

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“With this approach of this new system coming from the west which is approaching today, we’re expecting this heavy rain to fall in areas that haven’t seen as much rain over the last few days, and we’re expecting the flood risk to develop in those areas as well,” she explained. 

Justin Robinson is the Bureau of Meteorology’s national flood manager, who recently spoke to the press about his extensive amount of experience with flooding in Australia. 

“I’ve been a flood forecaster for 20 years and this is probably the worst flooding I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a flood watch that covers all the way from the Queensland border down to the Victoria border, along all those coastal rivers.”

The NSW emergency service networks have said many of the areas across the state “resemble an island sea,” and they’re already preparing for the massive clean up effort that will need to be done once all the rain finally subsides. Premier Berejiklian claimed she has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about calling in the military for backup when it comes time to clean and recover.

Human Rights

Human Rights Lawyer Says Syria Is ‘One Of The Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophes In History’

Nearly ten years ago the Arab Spring uprose, a movement that spread throughout the Middle East and eventually would hit the country of Syria. Syria has been ravaged by protests that moved throughout the Southern part of the nation before hitting the capital of Damascus, which is also the home of the country’s leader Bashar al-Assad. 

The protests initially called for Assad’s resignation, and while citizens were hopeful that they would be able to overthrow their leader, Assad and his regime remained in place and held their ground. Syria’s military force quickly showed their alliance to Assad by training soldiers to use deadly force on the peaceful protesters, and ever since the nation has been condemned by international leaders and human rights groups who claim that Syria is killing its citizens for expressing their rights and opinions. 

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It’s been 10 years since the beginning of this Civil War that has left Syria in ruins. According to data from the United Nations, more than 400,000 people have been killed, and it’s estimated that close to 1 million have been severely injured. The UN also estimates that nearly half of the country’s residents have been thrown out of their homes since the start of this war ten years ago, and 5 million citizens have been forced to become refugees outside of the nation’s borders, with another 6 million internally displaced. 

London-based human rights lawyer, Toby Cadman, recently spoke to the media about the past decade and current state of Syria as a nation, calling it “one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes in history.” 

“What started as a peaceful protest has descended into this conflict of which there is no accountability.”

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The conflict within Syria eventually became a proxy war with Russia and Iran after the two nations showed their support for Assad. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have all expressed their support for the peaceful protesters. The US has been in and out of this decade-long conflict. The Obama Administration initially backed the rebels by attacking the Islamic State while the Trump Administration launched a missile attack in 2017. The Biden Administration then quickly launched a rocket attack as well against certain facilities in eastern Syria that the Pentagon claimed was used by Iranian-backed militia. 

Assad is still currently in charge of Syria while the nation continues to struggle everyday. Residents have found that the healthcare system is practically nonexistent, the economy is constantly on the brink of collapsing, and about 80% of all Syrians are currently living in poverty with 60% at risk for hunger. 

“There’s no future for any peace and prosperity in Syria as long as the Assad regime remains in power.”

The al-Assad family has ruled Syria since 1971, and it’s expected that Bashar al-Assad will be re-elected in an upcoming “democratic” election. as-Assad has also shown no interest in working with the UN or other international bodies to work on rebuilding his country and helping the millions of citizens currently struggling.

Switzerland Becomes Newest Nation To Ban Face Coverings In Public 

Switzerland has officially voted to approve a ban on full facial coverings in nearly all public spaces. The facial coverings include items like a niqab or burqa, and the policy is not at all in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic or masks that have to do with health and safety protection. 

The vote means that facial coverings will be banned in all publicly accessible places including public offices, transportation, restaurants, shops, and even on the streets. 51% of voters supported the controversial proposal according to the official results published by the federal government. 

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The only exceptions include places of worship and other sacred sites. According to the text of the proposal which was published by the Swiss federal government, “face coverings will also be allowed if worn for health and safety reasons, because of the weather and in situations where it is considered a ‘local custom’ to do so, such as at carnivals. There will be no additional exceptions, for example for tourists.”

The proposal was initially brought about by several right wing groups in the country including the Swiss People’s Party. While the proposal didn’t mention Islam specifically, the media has widely been referring to it as a “burqa ban” for it’s blatant disregard for religious individuals who view facial coverings as a sign of religious freedom. 

Many Swiss religious organizations, human rights/civic groups, and even members of the federal government have criticized the proposal for its attack on the religious freedoms of a very specific group of people who barely make up a full percentage of the population. The fact that the government has gone out of their way to ostracize such a miniscule portion of the Swiss population has many human rights groups calling out the authorities for racism and sexism. 

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The Swiss Council of Religions represents all major religious communities in Switzerland and condemned this proposal at the end of last year, emphasizing that “the human right to religious freedom also protects religious practices such as dress codes.” 

The Swiss Federal Council and the Swiss Parliament, both of which serve as the country’s federal government, also publicly rejected the initiative and advised people to vote against it. The two government bodies have also temporarily tabled a counter-proposal to the ban which states that people would only have to remove facial coverings to show their faces to police or other officials if it’s necessary for identification purposes. 

Andreal Tunger-Zanetti is a researcher at the University of Licerne who has been studying Islam in Switzerland since 2007. He has recently taken to social media to discuss his new book which reveals how “the number of people wearing a niqab is limited to three dozen at most” in Switzerland. Amnesty International claimed the result of the vote was “anti-Muslim.” 

“Swiss voters have once again approved an initiative that discriminates against one religious community in particular, needlessly fueling division and fear.”

Several other European countries have also banned, or partially banned, facial coverings in similar policies that have been regarded as discriminatory and an attack on the religious freedoms of Muslim individuals. France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands all have bans in place currently.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sentenced To Prison 

A French court convicted former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to three years in prison for “corruption and influence peddling,” however, the sentence had two years suspended from it. Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012. 

Sarkozy was found guilty of “trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about an ongoing investigation into his campaign finances,” according to the ruling. The judge claimed that Sarkozy does not need to serve time in jail itself and could instead serve his sentence by wearing an electric bracelet at home. 

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This is a historic ruling for the nation, marking the first time a president has been sentenced to jail in France within its modern history. Sarkozy is 66-years-old, and the prosecutor working on the case requested a two-year prison sentence as well as a two-year suspended sentence. 

Sarkozy and his co-defendants, his lawyers Thierry Herzog and former magistrate Gilbert Azibert, were all found guilty and handed prison sentences to a certain degree. An investigation was initially launched last year before enough evidence was able to be compiled to make charges and bring the case to the courtroom; which occurred at the end of last year. 

This incident has been dubbed by French media as the “wiretapping case,” and it apparently began back in 2013 when investigators first bugged phones belonging to Sarkozy and his lawyer Herzog. Investigators discovered that the two men had “promised senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert a prestigious position in Monaco, in exchange for information about an ongoing inquiry into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.”

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These aren’t the only accusations Sarkozy is facing either. In two weeks he will find himself on trial once again after being accused of violating campaign financing rules during his 2012 re-election bid. He worked with a public relations firm during his failed campaign to hide the true cost of it from the media. 

In a separate case, French prosecutors are looking into an “alleged illegal campaign funding from Libya. Libya’s former deceased leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases,” according to prosecutors. 

Back in 2011 former president Jacques Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds for his campaign, and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for the “employment of fictitious officials when he was mayor of Paris in the early 1990’s.” It’s unclear if the additional accusations will add any additional time to Sarkozy’s sentence, but citizens aren’t convinced it will.

Facebook To Restore News Sharing Services In Australia 

Facebook announced that it will be restoring all news pages in Australia after the platform and Australian government agreed to certain changes within the media coding that would grant greater control over what appears on the platform from both parties. 

Facebook and the Australian government have been at odds for months now. Initially Australia was attempting to pass legislation that would require Facebook and Google to pay news and media outlets for their content before they’re able to share it across their platforms. “The initial version of the legislation would have allowed media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google — and to enter binding arbitration if the parties couldn’t reach an agreement,” according to reports

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This week the Australian government also released a statement in which they claimed they would “amend the code to include a provision that must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses.” 

Campbell Brown is Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships who recently spoke with the media regarding the new deal. 

“The government has clarified Facebook will retain the ability to decide if news appears on the platform so that we won’t automatically be subject to forced negotiation.” 

Brown continued to explain that the “agreement will allow Facebook to support the publishers they choose to, including small and local publishers. Our company will also be restoring the news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days.” 

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Brown is of course referring to Facebook’s decision last week to remove all news articles and services from the platform, barring Australians from finding or sharing news. This move not only impacted the thousands of media publishers on Facebook, but government agencies and services as well. The removal of media outlets indirectly removed pages for emergency government services and charities, leaving many Australians who are dependent on those services without the ability to access them. 

Facebook’s recent decision to restore the news came after the Australian Senate discussed the recent media laws passed that allowed the platform to take away so many essential services and pages. 

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally, and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook,” Brown explained. 

Google, on the other hand, has already been attempting to surpass the new legislation by partnering with some of Australia’s largest media organizations. All of these deals are currently unconfirmed, but will likely be revealed in the coming weeks.

Two Journalists Receive Two Years In Prison For Live-Streaming Belarus Protest 

Journalists Darya Chultsova, 23, and Yekaterina Andreyeva, 27, have been sentenced to two years in prison for live-streaming a demonstration in Belarus. The two work for the independent Belsat TV channel and were detained back in November while covering a protest that was in memory of an opposition activist who died in Minsk a few days prior. 

Roman Bondarenko was a local media activist who apparently died from injuries sustained after being beaten by riot police. The Prosecutor General of Belarus announced this week that an investigation into his death is already being launched but “the involvement of employees of the internal affairs bodies in causing Bondarenkp bodily harm has not been established.” 

This Thursday the courts ruled that both Chultsova and Andreyeva were guilty of “organizing a demonstration that grossly violates public order.”

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Investigators revealed that the two journalists allegedly gathered protestors “by talking about it on air, which then led to interruptions of public transport in the area.” The two are maintaining their innocence on the matter. 

“I have everything: youth, a job that I love, prominence and, most importantly, a clear conscience. I want to devote all my energy to the creation of Belarus without political repression. I demand an acquittal for myself, for my colleagues and for hundreds of political prisoners,” Andreyeva said at a previous court hearing, according to local media.

Viasna is a Belarussian human rights group that designated the two young journalists as political prisoners and claimed the charges against them are being enforced because of their work as journalists. Belsat is a politically independent TV channel that’s based in Poland. The channel primarily reports on Belarus and it’s budget relies on Polish state subsidies. 

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Ever since its presidential elections in August of 2020, Belarus has been taken over by mass protests. Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, and when he secured his sixth term last summer, claims of a rigged election began flooding media outlets and independent observers who were commentating on the manner. 

Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets in Belarus, demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. Riot police have since cracked down on the protests, beating and detaining thousands of protestors. Some media outlets have reported that the detention centers these protestors are being held at are riddled with abuse and torture. 

“Just look at Darya and Yekaterina, strong, smiling, and saying goodbyes to their loved ones through bars. Lukashenka can’t break us,” Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said in a tweet on Thursday. As of right now the two journalists will begin their sentence in the coming weeks.