On Friday 30 June 2023, City Court in Minsk, Belarus, has sentenced Pavel Padabed (Павел Падабед) ,born 1979, a video camera operator and journalist who works with independent media outlets, to four years in prison for his alleged participation in an extremist organization according to Art. 361-4 of the Criminal Code of Belarus. This information was published by the in Belarus forbidden organizations Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and Human Rights Center “Viasna”. SEEMO is alarmed by the four-year prison sentence handed to Padabed.
The court based its decision on “circumstantial evidence” and presented video materials from protests as proof. Padabed’s name was not credited in the clips, but his cooperation with the by authorities in Minsk banned Belsat TV channel, led to suspicions of his involvement. Padabed, denied the charges. The sentence has sparked international concern.
Padabed was arrested on 20 January 2023 in Minsk, Belarus. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported that Padabed’s arrest likely occurred at a local post office. Padabed informed his family members that he was arrested, although he did not disclose the specific charges against him. Upon inspecting Padabed’s apartment, his relatives discovered that his computer, along with other storage devices and his mobile phone were missing.
Belarus, under President Alexander Lukashenko’s (Аляксандр Лукашэнка) rule, has intensified its crackdown on opposition and independent reporting. Padabed’s trial was held behind closed doors, reflecting the oppressive environment for journalism in the country. Belsat TV, the Polish-funded satellite channel Padabed worked for, is deemed “extremist media” by the Belarusian state. The country has faced international criticism for its suppression of dissent, with numerous journalists currently behind bars. According to BAJ evidence 35 journalists or media workers are in this moment in jail in Belarus (more: https://baj.by/en/analytics/repressions-against-journalists-belarus-2023-list-colleagues-prison).
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