Two journalists in Belarus have been sentenced to two years in prison on charges of organizing protests against the authoritarian ruling head of state Alexander Lukashenko. The reporters Katerina Bachwalowa and Daria Tschulzowa were found guilty of leading “group actions that grossly violate public order,” said their employer, the opposition television station Belsat.
The two journalists were arrested on November 15 while filming protests from an apartment in Minsk. According to Belsat, the public prosecutor’s office said at the start of the trial that the journalists’ reports caused delays in local public transport and material damage.
Lukashenko’s officially announced re-election in August had sparked mass protests in the former Soviet republic. The opposition accuses the head of state, who has been in power since 1994, of massive electoral fraud. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested during the protests and some were tortured in custody. Many opposition politicians fled abroad. The EU imposed sanctions on the Belarusian president and his confidants for the brutal actions of the security forces against peaceful demonstrators.