Belarus arrests a prominent journalist in its continued crackdown on dissent

Authorities in Belarus have arrested a prominent journalist working with the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the latest step in a yearslong crackdown on opposition figures, independent journalists and human rights activists

Yuras Karmanau
Tuesday 18 July 2023 19:53 BST
Belarus Crackdown
Belarus Crackdown

Authorities in Belarus have arrested a prominent journalist who has written for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the latest step in a yearslong crackdown on opposition figures, independent journalists and human rights activists.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said Ihar Karnei, 55, was arrested in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Monday. His apartment was raided, with police seizing phones and computers, his daughter, Polina, told The Associated Press.

The authorities have offered no explanation for the arrest and the searches. However, RFE/RL has been labeled extremist in Belarus, and working with it or spreading its content is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Belarus’ oldest and most prominent human rights group, Viasna, reported that Karnei has been placed in the Akrestina pretrial detention center, notorious for its harsh conditions and torture of prisoners. According to Viasna, neither lawyers nor family members have access to Karnei.

Journalists and activists in Belarus have faced large-scale repression since the August 2020 vote that handed a sixth term to President Alexander Lukashenko. Following the election, which was rejected as fraudulent by the opposition and the West, Belarus was swept by massive protests, some of which drew more than 100,000 people.

Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown. More than 35,000 people were arrested, thousands were beaten by police while in custody, and dozens of nongovernmental organizations and independent media outlets were shut down.

A total of 36 journalists are currently behind bars in Belarus.

Karnei was detained several times while covering the protests. Unlike many of his colleagues, he has remained in Belarus despite the crackdown.

“Arrests, searches, torture in detention centers continue in Belarus,” Viasna said in a recent statement. “Political prisoners are being pressured, and independent news products are being designated extremist.”

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