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Belsat Satellite Network Reports Raid By Belarusian Security Forces

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service May 22, 2021

Belarusian security forces raided a Minsk studio used by a Polish-based TV station that has produced investigations critical of authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his associates.

Belsat said uniformed officers broke into a studio on May 21 used for producing a talk show, detaining six people, including four cameramen.

The host of the talk show, Hleb Labadzenka, confirmed that the raid had taken place but told Euroradio that he was not detained.

The studio was being prepared for a future program and no filming was taking place when the raid took place, the outlet said.

There was no immediate confirmation of the detentions from Belarusian law enforcement.

In April, the channel published an investigation into the business dealings of the daughter-in-law of the country's strongman leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and others associated with him.

Earlier this year, two journalists for Belsat were handed what their lawyers called an "absurd" sentence of two years in prison each for reporting live from a rally in Minsk in November.

Separately on May 21, Belsat said two freelance journalists had been detained in Minsk and were taken to a police facility. They were to appear in court on May 24, the report said, although details were not available.

Broadcasting in Belarusian, Belsat TV is a subsidiary of Poland's public broadcaster, Telewizja Polska. Its correspondents have been harassed and detained in the past by Belarusian agents. It is also funded by several European governments and foundations and had correspondents in Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, and other European countries.

Belarus has been gripped by nearly unprecedented political turmoil since last August, when Lukashenka declared victory in a disputed presidential election.

Belarusians have taken to the streets around the country to protest and in some cases have clashed with security officials, who have arrested thousands, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies. Most of the top opposition figures have been pushed out of the country.

Authorities have also stepped up pressure on independent media and stripped accreditation from a host of correspondents from international news organizations.

Earlier this week, police launched a probe of the country's largest independent online media outlet, Tut.by, searching the homes of several of its editors and blocking its website.

Meanwhile, a Minsk court on May 21 sentenced another reporter who covered the police raid on Tut.by to a 15-day prison sentence, a media advocacy group said.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said 27 media workers are currently behind bars, either awaiting trial or serving sentences.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/belsat- poland-belarus-raid-lukashenka- journalists/31267935.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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