Photojournalists In Belarus Arrested, Media React With Blank Front Pages

On 17 September, front pages of major independent media outlets in Belarus look this way. This is the reaction of editorial staff to the arrest of photojournalists covering the protests.

On 16 September, photojournalists Vladimir Gridin and Alexander Vasyukovich were sentenced to 11 days of arrest. The court ruled that they had taken part in an unsanctioned mass event. They were detained on 13 September in a cafe when they were sending photos to the editorial office, since internet access was limited earlier that day.

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At first, the journalists were accused of rallying near a cafe on Romanovskaya Sloboda Street. However, after a video was presented in court, it became obvious that they worked in a cafe. After that, the police “revised” the reports and it turned out that Gridin and Vasyukovich were rallying near Pushkinskaya metro station, two hours before the arrest.

According to their colleagues working on the same day at the protest rally, both photo reporters were designated as journalists and had press cards. Today Vladimir Gridin will be transferred to Zhodino, Alexander Vasyukovich will stay at a pre-trial detention center on Okrestsin Street in Minsk.

This is not the first time journalists in Belarus are arrested while on duty. On 1 September, TUT.BY journalists Nadezhda Kalinina and Aleksey Sudnikov, journalists of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus Sergei Schegolev, Nikita Duboleko and Maria Eleshevich, as well as BelaPAN journalist Andrei Shavlyugo were detained. They covered the student protest.

The court also ruled that they took part in the unsanctioned protest rally and coordinated the actions of its participants.

They spent three days in custody. In both cases, the court ruled on the basis of the testimony of witnesses with altered personal data. They gave testimony via video link, and only the judge saw their masked faces. Besides, both cases were sent back for revision to eliminate the shortcomings, since at the first meeting the witnesses of the Ministry of Internal Affairs could not accurately indicate the place of the offense.

Since the beginning of May, 12 TUT.BY journalists have been detained a total of 19 times. Since the beginning of the election campaign, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), journalists in Belarus have been detained for more than 200 times.