IMS calls for the immediate release of Belarusian journalists

International Media Support (IMS) condemns in the strongest possible terms the detention of the Belarusian journalist Yulia Slutskaya and calls for her and her colleagues immediate and unconditional release. A total of nine Belarusian journalists are now in jail.

The founder of the Press Club Belarus and a board member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Yulia Slutskaya, was detained yesterday (22 December) upon her arrival at Minsk National Airport. Shortly after a quick search of Slutskaya’s baggage, she was taken by ten plain-clothed police, according to her daughter, present at the scene.

On the same day, the authorities also raided Slutskaya’s apartment in Minsk, the office of the Press Club and the apartments of Press Club Programme Director Ala Sharko and its Educational Programme Director Syarhey Yakupau. Sharko’s lawyer was not allowed to be present during the search operation. A village house of the Press Club Director Sergei Olshevsky was searched too, his father reported. Among the detainees are Press Club Belarus founder Yulia Slutskaya, Press Club Program Director Alla Sharko, Press Club Director Sergei Olshevsky and Program Director of the Press Club Academy Sergei Yakupov.

According to the BAJ and local media sources, Slutskaya is currently being held at the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee. The local media cite the press service of the State Control Committee saying that its Department of Financial Investigations is conducting an investigation into “violations of tax legislation of the Republic of Belarus by several officials of the Press Club”. The searches took place as part of a criminal case under Art. 243 part 2 concerning the evasion of taxes on an especially large scale. 

Yulia Slutskaya is being targeted due to her work as a professional journalist and the leader of the media development organisation.

“We resolutely condemn the harassment of Slutskaya and Belarusian Press Club, which we see as an act of retaliation for their media development work and yet another attempt to intimidate the independent media in Belarus amid the unprecedented, frantic crackdown on peaceful dissent in Belarus”, said Gulnara Akhundova, Head of the Global Response Department at IMS.

IMS strongly condemns the Belarusian government’s targeting of the Belarusian Press Club and intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists in Belarus. The Belarusian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Slutskaya and her colleagues and cease all attacks, intimidation and harassment of the media in Belarus.

Since 10 January, there have been 533 cases of violations of journalists rights committed by the representatives of the authorities, most of them taking place following the fraudulent presidential elections on 9 August. 

The following journalists are in jail at the moment:

Katsiaryna Barysevich
Katsiaryna Andreyeva
Daria Chultsova
Aliaksandra Pilipovich-Sushchyts
Siarhei Hardzievich
Yulia Slutskaya
Alla Sharko
Siarhei Alsheuski
Siarhei Yakupau