(NEW YORK) — The recent sentencings of Yury Hantsarevich and Katsiaryna Andreeva (Bakhvalova), journalists in Belarus, are a devastating reminder of ongoing attempts to silence journalists and undermine free expression  there, PEN America said today.

Hantasarevich, a correspondent for Intex-Press, was convicted of facilitating extremism and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.  Hantasarevish sent photographs of Russian military aircraft equipment to Radio Free Europe, an organization  that has been designated as “extremist” in Belarus. Andreeva, a correspondent for Belsat, was found guilty of ‘state treason’ because she recorded a November 2020 protest, and sentenced to more than eight years in prison

PEN America has been following Andreeva’s case since February 2021, when Andreeva and her colleague Darya Chultsova were initially sentenced to two years in prison for ‘organizing activities which violate the public order.’ Her case is emblematic  of the especially aggressive crackdown on journalists and others following the sham Belarusian presidential election in August 2020. As evidenced by the re-sentencing of Andreeva, the crackdown continues and intensifies.

“The ongoing targeting of journalists, including, prolonging sentences, and the general atmosphere of repression in Belarus are an urgent cause for international concern,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia Programs at PEN America. “The conviction and sentencing of Andreeva, Hantasarevich, and many others violate international human rights standards. Colleagues at PEN Belarus and other human rights organizations have worked tirelessly to keep these cases on the map. Now and always, the international community must stand with them  to make sure these efforts will not be in vain nor forgotten.” 

The hearings for Hantasarevich and Andreeva are only a few of many scheduled in coming weeks. Other members of the Belarusian independent press are scheduled to appear in court, and PEN America is deeply concerned about these cases. PEN America calls for the immediate cessation of the harassment and punitive treatment of journalists by the Belarusian authorities. Hantarasevich, Andreeva, and others should be free. 

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057