I am a 47 year old freelance journalist from Belarus (Gomel). My real profession is historian, but for the last 13 years I have been working as a journalist for Belsat TV channel and the human rights website “Homel Spring”. I shoot videos, take photos and write texts. The repression against me began long before the election of 2020.
Since 2016, I have been in court about 45 times for cooperating with Belsat TV channel. Belsat lack an accreditation from the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The management of the channel has repeatedly applied for an accreditation for its employees, but has always been denied accreditation.
In 2017, there were mass protests in Belarus against the unemployment tax and the pressure on me intensified. There were traditional detentions during and after street rallies and several trials and fines, but this time the police also threatened to take away my son, because I was under trial so many times.
Since the beginning of 2020, when the covid-19 epidemic began in the world and in Belarus, there were repressions for coverage of topics related to the epidemic. When the election campaign started, there was again persecution and repressions and obstacles to journalism. In Belarus, the practice of preventive detentions before the action is widely used also for journalists.
Several times before the street protests started, police-cars were parked outside my house. In those cases, I have three options:
1. To leave the house and I will be immediately detained and taken to the police.
2. Not to leave the house and I will not get to my work, the action, which I have to cover.
3. To try to run away from the police.
One time I managed to escape. I climbed over the fence like a monkey
and took a taxi. Twice, near my house, I was stopped by traffic police and forced to get into a police car, taken to the police station and held for 4 to 8 hours, until the rallies I was supposed to cover ended. On election day, policemen were on duty by my house in the morning, but I did not spend the night at home, so I had the opportunity to cover the election.
After the election in late August, when there were mass protests in Homel against the rigged presidential election, I was detained 3 times near my house and placed in a detantion centre for 1, 3 and 3 days. I have a son, so I can´t be arrested, but I could be detained for 72 hours before the trial.
To be able to detain me for 72 hours, the police wrote reports that I was allegedly a participant in an unauthorized mass event. Under this article, the law gives the police the right to arrest, for journalism without accreditation they do not have this right. In court, these reports disappeared and I was fined for journalism, not for participation. I was put in prison to intimidate me and to force me to stop cover protests and topics of violation of human rights.
Several times I was detained in front of my teenage son. Because of this, he is very stressed and even six months later he felt the effects of this psycho-emotional trauma. My own psychological state also deteriorated. I began to feel anxious, and constant fear of detentions and arrests and my sleep was disturbed.
Since the election I have a prison bag with the necessary things and books collected in case of on arrest at home.
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