Another two Belsat reporters detained in Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko’s clampdown on activists and free speech continues with yet another detention, this time involving two Belsat TV reporters in the city of Brest, western Belarus.

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According to the broadcaster, journalists Milana Kharytonava and Alesi Lauchuk were detained on Thursday in front of their home, about to head out for a day’s work. They intended to report on the opposition Freedom Day. Fearing protests, the Belarusian authorities carried out preemptive detentions of activists.

A series of further detentions took place on Thursday in other Belarusian localities. As the Viasna Human Rights Centre reported, people were detained for wearing clothes coloured white-red-and-white — the colours of the Belarusian People's Republic flag used by the oppositionists today.

Independent media have been reporting large numbers of police units and cars in Minsk and other cities. The capital’s central Independence Avenue has been closed off. Minor opposition activities have been taking place in the other districts of the city regardless, including flying flags and minor assemblies.

The opposition and independent milieus in Belarus are celebrating Freedom Day on March 25 to commemorate the proclamation of Belarusian independence in 1918 by the Belarusian People's Republic. Mr Lukashenko’s administration does not recognise the date.

Earlier on February 18, 2021, a court in Minsk sentenced the Belsat journalists, Yekaterina Andreeva and Darya Chultsova, to two years' imprisonment “for organising public events aimed at disrupting civil order.” The women were detained while broadcasting the dispersal of a demonstration against the ruling regime.

Both journalists became symbols of the Alexander Lukashenko regime’s repression of free speech in Belarus. The photos taken during their trial, showing them smiling straight in the face of the imminent unfavourable ruling have circulated around the world.