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Journalism is an increasingly difficult job to practice in Eastern Europe

Photo by: Juliana Kuznetsova
The journalist Andrzej Poczobut, a personality of the Polish minority in Belarus, was sentenced on Wednesday to eight years in prison for “inciting hatred.” The Supreme Court in Minsk recorded that the 49-year-old journalist, a correspondent of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper in Poland and a militant for the rights of the minority he belongs to, was also found guilty of “public appeals and actions aimed at harming the unity of the nation.” He had asked for international sanctions against Belarus. The trial took place at the regional court in Grodno, in the west of the former Soviet republic of Belarus, where a large community of Polish origin lives. The punishment provides for detention in a “penitentiary camp with a severe regime,” the supreme court stated in the quoted statement. Poland immediately condemned, through a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw, the “unjust” verdict of the justice system in an “authoritarian state.”

For her part, the exiled leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tsihanovskaia, appreciated that the sentence represented a “personal revenge” of the Belarusian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko. Poczobut had been in prison since March 2021, when he was arrested. “We must do everything we can to free him, along with all the other political prisoners.” “I have no illusions; I will accept the sentence calmly and go to prison with a calm conscience,” he said in a letter published by his newspaper ahead of the verdict. Poczobut refused to leave Belarus after Lukashenko suppressed mass protests against his rule in the summer of 2020 and was arrested in March 2021. According to Viasna, Poczobut refused to sign a petition to be pardoned by Lukashenko after his arrest. Viasna, a renowned rights group, included Poczobut in its list of 1,449 political prisoners in Belarus. Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994.

By Sra Colin

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