TVP journalist to be tried by Lukashenka’s regime

Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime has for many years waged a war against freedom of speech. Journalists, who expose the dictatorship’s transgressions are its number one enemy.

Iryna Slaunikava is a Belarusian journalist employed by TVP, Poland’s national broadcaster. She began working with TVP working for Belsat, a Polish-and Belarusian-language TVP subsidiary.

She and her husband, Alyaksandr Loyka, were detained on October 30, 2021 at Minsk airport after returning from holiday. Initially, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail for "sharing extremist content on Facebook”. Her husband was eventually released, but after the initial period she was sentenced to another 15 days and still remains there.

The supposed “extremist content” were Belsat articles and news items. Lukashenka’s regime currently considers Belsat an “extremist organisation”. But the content shared by Slaunikava was written and shared before the Belarusian Ministry of Interior Affairs branded Belsat “extremist”. In an even more shocking violation of basic principles of justice, Belsat was added to the list of extremist organisations after the journalist was arrested.

The journalist’s father, Alyaksandr Slaunikav said: “My daughter worked on Belsat TV, but that was 10 years ago, or maybe more. Currently, she is a journalist for TVP. If TVP is also considered an extremist organisation, then I am shocked.” Iryna Slaunikava has also been accused of being a member of an organisation that “blatantly violates public order.”

The Investigative Committee of Belarus has released no information about the ongoing investigation and Slaunikava’s lawyers have been obligated not to release any information about it either. That means that neither her parents, nor her husband know what is happening to her.

Hope dies last

The journalist’s attorney said that there is no reason for the trial proceeding to be conducted behind closed doors. The lawyer, as well as the parents believe that the hearings are to remain classified because the body of evidence, which he deridingly calls “a heap of papers”, is so feeble the prosecution cannot possibly prove Iryna Slaunikava guilty of the crimes of which she is accused. Alyaksandr Slaunikav however knows that the sentence on his daughter has already been passed.

Slaunikav, a former military officer, is particularly incensed by the accusations levelled against his daughter on account of family history. He stressed that his father and the father of his wife, Iryna’s grandfathers, fought against the Nazis in World War II. Her great grandfather was executed during the German occupation of Belarus.

Iryna Slaunikava’s family and friends are trying to remain hopeful, but they know that in Belarus, dissident journalists are never acquitted in court. Alyaksandr Slaunikav concluded the interview thus:

“I’ll put it this way: whatever happens, we know that our daughter is innocent and that ultimately she will be rehabilitated. And let the sentence be a burden on the conscience of those who will be passing it.”