OSCE Condemns Unjust Convictions Against Journalists in Belarus

People ♦ Published: July 14, 2022; 15:52 ♦ (Vindobona)

In response to the recent imprisonment of journalists, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media today expressed concern about the continued and unchanging practice of judicial reprisals against journalists and media workers.

Katerina Bakhvalova was arrested while filming a demonstration. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Ravaika Ruslan (CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Katerina Bakhvalova, an investigative journalist at the Belsat TV station, was arrested in 2020 while filming anti-government protests. Now she has been sentenced to a further 8 years in prison, having already served a two-year sentence for breaching public order.

She and another journalist, Darya Chultsova, were sentenced around February 2021. Now she has been accused of "treason against the state" in the latest trial.

Earlier, on 8 and 15 June 2022, the courts had sentenced freelance RFE/RL correspondent Andrey Kuznechyk and the editor-in-chief of the weekly Novy Chas, Oksana Kolb, to prison terms of six and 2.5 years respectively.

Now the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, has spoken out and condemned the actions in Belarus. The continued detention of journalists is a serious blow to media freedom.

Commenting on the incidents in 2021, she said firmly: "Silencing and imprisoning journalists just for doing their job is simply unacceptable. Such an unfortunate development restricts the space for public debate and citizens' right to freedom of information, thus harming society as a whole," Ribeiro said. "I hope that the sentence will be fully overturned on appeal, and I urge the Belarusian authorities to refrain from similar charges against media professionals in the future."

Following the recent prison sentence, the OSCE Representative, today deplored the continuing and unchanging practice of judicial reprisals against journalists and media workers in Belarus.

The Representative continues to closely follow the cases of other members of the press who are on trial.

"It is unacceptable that journalists are imprisoned for their work. I reiterate my call on the Belarusian authorities to stop attacking freedom of expression and media freedom obligations," Ribeiro said. "All media professionals who have been detained, arrested or imprisoned must be released."

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media monitors media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning of violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and works to ensure full compliance with OSCE commitments on media freedom.

OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe