February 1, 2024

01.02.2024 – Belarusian Photographer Aliaksandr Ziankou Receives 3-Year Prison Term

On 30 January 2024, Judge of the City Court in Minsk (Мінск), Belarus convicted according to the article 361-1 of the criminal law of Belarus freelance photographer Aliaksandr Ziankou (Аляксандр Зянкоў) of creation or participating in an extremist organization (Стварэнне экстрэмісцкага фармавання або ўдзел у ім), sentencing him to three years in prison. Ziankou’s trial began on 12 January 2024. He was arrested on 22 June 2023, in Barysau (Барысаў), Belarus, when police seized his computer equipment during a house search. Despite being held for ten days in a temporary detention facility in Minsk, Belarus, Ziankou remained steadfast, refusing to confess or provide his smartphone password to investigators.

According to a former cellmate, Ziankou was charged with promoting extremist activities, allegedly based on video footage found on his computer, which had been posted on a website labeled as “extremist” by Belarusian authorities. His refusal to cooperate led to his transfer to the Minsk pre-trial detention center on 2 July 2023.

Ziankou, a freelance photographer since 1998, collaborated with various media outlets and received recognition for his creative work, including documentaries and award-winning photography projects. He was previously detained in 2020 while documenting protests against President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (Аляксандр Рыгоравіч Лукашэнка).

The sentencing of Ziankou underscores the ongoing crackdown on press freedom in Belarus and highlights the risks faced by journalists and media professionals operating in the country.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the sentencing of Belarusian photographer Aliaksandr Ziankou. The use of extremism laws to silence journalists and media professionals is a blatant violation of press freedom and democracy. Ziankou’s case highlights the continued repression of independent voices in Belarus and underscores the urgent need for international attention and action to protect journalists and ensure their right to work without fear of persecution. SEEMO calls on Belarusian authorities to immediately release Ziankou and other unjustly detained journalists, and to respect the principles of media freedom and human rights.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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