NEW YORK—In response to reports that Belarusian writer, journalist, and activist Paviel Sieviaryniec was arrested, PEN America released the following statement:

“The harassment of renowned writer Paviel Sievaryniec and his fellow activists in Belarus has gone on for too long, and his arrest this week is proof of the continuous threat to freedom of expression there,” says Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Eurasia Project Director. “Sievaryniec has demonstrated remarkable courage in his decades-long fight for the right to speak freely.  As a writer, he knows very well the power of words to create change–no doubt that is why the government is so intent on silencing him.  We stand with our friends at PEN Belarus in urging the Belarusian government to cease this persecution.”

On February 26, Sieviaryniec was arrested for calling a rally in Minsk’s October Square in support of Belarusian political prisoners. He, along with other participants in the rally, was taken to a temporary detention center where he remained for over 72 hours without a trial, in contravention of Belarusian law. Sievaryniec, a member of the Belarusian Writers’ Union and the Belarusian PEN Center, has been persecuted by authorities for over 20 years. He has organized and participated in mass street demonstrations and protests in solidarity with victims of government persecution from 1997 to 2018. As a result of his activism, he has been regularly intimidated, imprisoned, fined, and had manuscripts confiscated. He has reportedly been arrested over 120 times, and received about $15,000 in fines. Cumulatively, he has spent over a year under administrative arrest, and a total of 4.5 years in prison for organizing peaceful protests. Sieviaryniec has been repeatedly recognized by Belarusian and international human rights activists as a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience.

Sieviaryniec is a writer and public figure who has received multiple awards from the Belarusian PEN Center, including the A. Adamovich Prize, the Frantishka Alekhnovich Prize, and the Freedom of Thought Prize in 2008. In 2018, his novel Belarusalim was shortlisted for the Jerzy Gedroyc Prize. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]