Belsat journalists Kaciaryna Andreeva (28) and Daria Chultsova (23) were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for streaming a rally in Minsk, Belarus.
Authorities detained the journalists on November 15, 2020. They were broadcasting live from the memorial for deceased activist Raman Bandarenka (who died after reportedly being beaten by security forces).
The court ruled to punish them for “organizing actions that grossly violate public order.”
The prosecutor in the case was 22-year-old Alina. An intern in 2019, her career sped up last year with cases against protestors, Belsat reports. She prosecuted protestors for writing “We will not forget” in the location were an activist was killed. Two were sent to a penal colony, others to mandatory labour.
The sentence has already drawn sharp criticism from the international community. Press freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders condemned the ruling and called for their immediate release. Wojciech Konończuk, deputy director of the Warsaw-based Center for Eastern Studies, called for an urgent EU reaction.
Media have been a key victim of the crackdown on protests since August 2020.
More from The Fix: What can be done to support Belarusian media
Press Club Belarus head Yulia Slutskaya is still being detained. Authorities arrested her at Minsk airport on Dec. 22 following her return to the country. International organizations repeatedly called for her release.
Sasha Skutskaya, Yulia’s daughter, has been sharing information about her mother’s detention and her letters through her Facebook page.
In one letter Yulia wrote about the overwhelming propaganda and brainwashing efforts. “I begin to notice that I succumb myself, knowing very well this is not a reality,” she noted.
She also added “everyone, including her political [prisoner] cellmates, are morally preparing to serve time in the Gomel colony.”
More from The Fix: Press Club Belarus leadership arrested
Since protests started, 540 journalists [as of December 30th] have been targeted by the government. They have faced fines, detention, confiscation of equipment and physical violence.