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.

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