Journalist Arrested in Belarus as Country Cracks Down on Dissent

Journalist Arrested in Belarus as Country Cracks Down on Dissent

( – Belarusian authorities have arrested a prominent journalist working with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded news source that covers events in central and eastern Europe.

Ihar Karnei was arrested in Minsk, Belarus’ capital city, on Monday, July 17, after his apartment was raided. Police seized devices such as phones and computers, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

The Belarusian government has not explained the arrest, though authorities have labeled Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as “extremist.” Those caught working with or promoting the organization can face up to seven years in prison. Karnei has been with the organization since 2000 but has not used his byline when publishing articles as of late.

Karnei is currently being held in the Akrestina pretrial detention center, known for its harsh treatment of prisoners. Neither family members nor lawyers have access to Karnei, according to Viasna, Belarus’ oldest human rights organization.

The journalist’s arrest is part of a larger crackdown on news media and dissent after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko secured a sixth term in office in the August 2020 election. Following his victory, poll workers were fired on the spot after pointing out vote tally violations.

Many in Belarus denounced The election as fraudulent, and hundreds of thousands of people protested the results. Lukashenko won 4.6 million votes to opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya’s mere 588,000, or an 80% to 10% landslide in favor of Lukashenko.

The protests caused by the election evoked a brutal crackdown from the government, with over 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police while in custody. Dozens of media organizations, as well as other non-governmental organizations, were shut down for protesting against Lukashenko. The Belarusian government has now arrested 36 journalists, counting Karnei.

Karnei was also detained by Belarusian police several times in the past while covering the election protests. Unlike many of his colleagues, Karnei chose to remain in Belarus despite the danger of being arrested and imprisoned.

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