September 11, 2023

11.09.2023 – Belarusian Journalist Larysa Shchyrakova Receives Prison Sentence

On 31 August 2023 a court in Gomel / Homel (Гомель), Belarus, has sentenced journalist and activist Larysa Shchyrakova (Ларыса Шчыракова) to 3 years and 6 months in prison and a fine of 3,700 RUB (approximately 1,350 EUR). A criminal case was opened against Shchyrakova under Art. 369-1 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (discrediting the Republic of Belarus). During the court process she faced additional charges related to Part 1 and Part 2 of Art. 361-4 (promoting extremist activity and the act committed several times) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. She is arrested since December 2022.

Shchyrakova, born 1973, who had contributed to the human rights group Gomelskaya Viasna (Гомельская Вясна) that is banned by the state and the Polish independent broadcaster Belsat TV (Белсат), was accused of disseminating “false information” with the alleged intent to destabilize Belarus during anti-government protests. Despite working as a freelancer for Belsat TV from 2007 to 2022, she endured multiple detentions, fines, and harassment by the government. When she was arrested in 2022, her son was placed in a state institution for children.

This sentencing is part of a broader crackdown on journalists in Belarus, where media freedom has been under siege since many years.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the new court decision against a journalist in Belarus. 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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