Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova, two journalists for Belsat, were each sentenced on 18 February to two years in prison for reporting live from an anti-government rally in Minsk in November.
A court in Belarus today Thursday 18, February 2021 sentenced two journalists to two years in prison on charges of fomenting protests against strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus Authorities are pursuing a number of criminal cases against activists and journalists in the wake of months of anti-government protests last year.
The protests swept Belarus after Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an August election that the opposition and many Western countries said was fraudulent.
The authorities in response unleashed a mass crackdown, resulting in the death of four protesters, thousands in jail and hundreds claiming torture in custody.
Poland-based opposition television station Belsat reported Thursday that the two journalists, Katerina Bakhvalova, 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, were sentenced for leading “group actions that grossly violate public order” while filming a November rally in support of a dead anti-government protester.
Both women, who were photographed Thursday smiling and flashing the V for victory sign from inside a cage for defendants, had been held in pre-trial custody since.
“I showed these events live. For this I was thrown into jail on trumped-up charges,” Belsat reported Bakhvalova as telling a judge Wednesday in her final statement before sentencing.
As the journalists were handed their verdict Thursday morning, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement it had opened a criminal case into the death of the protester.