Belarus, Russia the most dangerous places for free media worldwide: journalists

In this episode of World Today, the main topic is the ruling of a Belarusian court sentencing TVP’s journalist Iryna Slaunikava to five years of imprisonment. TVP World was joined by Belsat TV’s journalist Aliaksandr Papko, and political scientist and Eastern European expert Sergei Sumleny to discuss the matter in depth.

“I knew her,” Mr Papko said, describing Ms Slaunikava as “a very warm, kind and energetic person. This sentence is a shock for us, although we expected harsh repressions, so it is not the first journalist from Belsat TV who is in jail.”

Commenting on whether there was contact with her or her family, Mr Papko said that, according to his knowledge, her husband remained free, although he had been detained by the Belarusian regime in the past. He went on to stress that he was not in close contact with Ms Slaunikava herself.

For his part, Mr Sumleny said that “Belarus is, together with Russia, the most dangerous country for journalists worldwide.

It’s more dangerous than Iraq,” he said, adding that Russian leader Vladimir Putin told Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka to crack down on the 2020 protests against the rigged Belarusian elections or to be “replaced”. “Lukashenka did everything to save his life. He was dependent on what Putin was telling him. He orchestrated the whole crackdown on the opposition. He is personally responsible for killing demonstrators… ordering sexual assaults on women who were participating in the protests, torture… all possible violations of human rights.”

“Of course, journalists were attacked,” he said.

Mr Papko added that the repressions in Belarus had the semblance of those practised in “Stalinist times.”

Protests in Belarus ‘not violent’ enough vs the menace of Russian invasion

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has recently called on the world to take part in the Day of Solidarity celebrated yearly since 2011 when human rights defender Ales Bialiatski was arrested by the Lukashenka regime on August 4 of that year. The day is organised to raise awareness of the draconian practice of imprisoning political opponents of the Lukashenka regime. Belarusians protest worldwide standing in visible places and flying protest banners.

But Mr Sumleny did not believe “in any success of these operations” and questioned whether it would bring any good to Belarusians staying in Belarus. He went on to say that “the Belarusian uprising chose the wrong way in August-September 2020 and has lost.”

“They have decided not to go violent and that was a crucial mistake,” he stressed.

To this Mr Papko responded noting that should the protesters enforce a change of regime in Minsk, “Russia would invade Belarus immediately.”

To listen to the rest of the debate, click the video above.