Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, Belarusian journalists working for the Polish television channel Belsat accused of coordinating mass protests in 2020 by broadcasting live reports, stand inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

A Belarus court convicted two journalists for violating public order by live-streaming a protest.

Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were arrested in November while filming police at demonstrations over the death of a protestor killed several days before. The judge ruled that the live-stream attracted more people to the rally, which obstructed public transport and caused more work for law enforcement. Both Andreyeva and Chultsova maintain they were simply doing their jobs. A lawyer for the journalists confirmed they would appeal the verdict. 

“I have everything: youth, a job that I love, prominence and, most importantly, a clear conscience,” Andreyeva said at a previous hearing. “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.”

Journalist Igor Ilyash, Andreyeva’s husband, said although they expected the result, he believed they would win in the end, adding, “Our love is much stronger than the Lukashenko regime.”

Violent protests erupted after a disputed presidential election between fifth-term President Aleksandr Lukashenko and opposition leader Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, who fled the country in the following days. More than 33,000 people have been detained at protests over the past six months, including over 400 journalists. Lukashenko voiced his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and denounced the ongoing protests in Belarus and Russia. Lukashenko promised a referendum to lessen the power of his position, but opponents believe it is a sham exercise. 

A trial began this week for a former bank executive who had aspirations of challenging Lukashenko in last year’s election. Viktor Babariko is charged with corruption and money laundering, but Babariko dismissed the accusations as politically motivated. The case echoed similar themes of Alexei Navalny’s recent trial in nearby Moscow.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

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Two Journalists in Belarus Jailed in Retaliation for Their Work – Human Rights Watch – 2/18/2021
Today a district court in Minsk, Belarus sentenced journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva and her colleague and camerawoman Daria Chultsova to two years in prison having deemed them guilty of “organizing activities violating public order.” The two women work for Belsat, a Poland-based broadcaster, long targeted by Belarusian authorities.

Lawyers will appeal against verdict of “Belsat” journalists – Belarusian Partisan – 2/18/2021
Translated: Lawyers will appeal against the verdict of the journalists of “Belsat.” On February 18, two journalists of the Belsat TV channel, Yekaterina Andreeva and Darya Chultsova, were sentenced. […] “We are absolutely sure that Ekaterina is not guilty,” Sergey Zikratsky answers. “Considering that the verdict was handed down with a rather tough term, naturally, we will appeal it. The appeal can either cancel the sentence, find her innocent, and change the punishment, including making a decision on a lighter punishment.”

Belarusian Journalists Handed ‘Absurd’ Prison Sentences For Live Coverage Of Anti-Government Rally – Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – 2/18/2021
Andreyeva, 27, and Chultsova, 23, in their last statement in the courtroom, again rejected the charges against them, calling them politically motivated as their only reason to be at the protest was to do their job as reporters. Andreyeva also demanded the “immediate release” of herself, Chultsova, and “all political prisoners in Belarus.” The sentencing drew international condemnation, with EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano denouncing a “shameful crackdown on media.”

Lukashenko says West recognizes his legitimacy, has letter to prove it – Deutsche Welle – 2/17/2021
“They say one thing but write another,” he said. “They did not address the ‘ex-president’ or the ‘former’ president or the Belarusian people,” he said. “I’m grateful that they know who’s boss here.” […] DW contacted the European Commission’s press office for comment and was told by spokesman Peter Stano that the letter in question was probably one written by von der Leyen and the President of the European Council Charles Michel on June 9, 2020 about the postponement of an Eastern Partnership summit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Blatant pressure’: Minsk blasts Western diplomats’ criticism of Belarusian investigators – TASS – 2/18/2021
On Wednesday, the EU mission in Minsk, as well as embassies of the US, UK and Switzerland came out with a joint statement, condemning the “increased harassment of civil society,” claiming persecution of journalists, human rights and union activists. The statement underscored that these people are being harassed for “carrying out [their] fundamental rights during peaceful protests against the August 2020 elections,” as well as “continued brutality by law enforcement.” “From the standpoint of diplomacy, as well as general common sense, this could only be interpreted as a totally ridiculous action. It is unclear, whom our colleagues seek to deceive, and whom they take Belarusians for […],” the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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