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These Two Belarus Journalists Were Jailed For Covering A Protest Against The President

A court in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, has sentenced two journalists to two years in prison for covering a protest against the president Alexander Lukashenko.

The journalists – Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova – had live-streamed a demonstration in memory of an opposition activist who died for Polish-funded television channel Belsat.

27-year-old Andreeva and 23-year-old Chulcova were detained in November in an apartment they were using to livestream the protest against the death of Roman Bondarenko, who died after he was allegedly beaten by security forces.

two beralus journalists jailed for covering anti-government protests embrace
Belsat TV journalists Katerina Bakhvalova and Daria Chultsova, who were detained for reporting on anti-government protests, embrace each other in a defendant’s cage during their trial in Minsk on Feb. 18, 2021. Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday Feb. 18, the court found the two journalists guilty of inciting unrest, saying that they had attracted more people to the rally through the livestream, which created more work for law enforcement and “interruptions of public transport,” according to CNN.

Both women, who pleaded not guilty, hugged and made “V” signs in the cage during the hearing.

“I have everything: youth, a job that I love, prominence and, most importantly, a clear conscience. I want to devote all my energy to the creation of Belarus without political repression,” Andreeva said at a previous court hearing.

belarus journalists jailed for covering anti-government protests gestures
Katerina Bakhvalova (reporting for Belsat TV under the name of Andreeva) gestures from inside a defendant’s cage during her trial in Minsk on Feb. 18, 2021. (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

The Guardian reported that their lawyer said they would appeal the verdict.

Since Lukashenko’s re-election last August, mass protests have taken place in Belarus demanding his resignation. Riot police have responded by beating and detaining protesters. Since then, more than 33,000 people have been detained, and more than 1,800 criminal cases were opened against activists, according to human rights group Viasna.

Protesters say the contested election last year was rigged in order to extend Lukashenko’s rule since 1994.

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