TALLINN, Estonia: A Belarusian journalist went on trial Friday (Jan 12) on charges linked to his professional work covering protests, the latest move in a relentless government crackdown on dissent.
Photojournalist Alyaksandr Zyankou faces up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of “participation in an extremist group” at Minsk City Court.
Such accusations have been widely used by authorities to target opposition members, civil society activists and independent journalists.
Zyankou has been in custody since his arrest in June, and his health has deteriorated behind bars, according to the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists.
“Zyankou was just taking pictures to chronicle brutal repressions in Belarus, but the authorities hate anyone speaking about or taking images of political terror in the country,” said the association’s head, Andrei Bastunets.
“Belarus is the most repressive country in Europe, where an attempt at free speech is punished by prison.”
A total of 33 Belarusian journalists are currently in prison, either awaiting trial or serving sentences.
Belarusian authorities have cracked down on opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko after huge protests triggered by the August 2020 election that gave him a sixth term in office.