February 19, 2024

19.02.2024 – Siarhei Hardziyevich Released Following Arrest

On 8 February 2024, former journalist from Drahichyn (Драгічын), Belarus, Siarhei Hardziyevich (Сяргей Гардзіевіч), born 1971, was released from the temporary detention center after serving a 15-day administrative detention sentence for distributing extremist products.

Officers of the Drahichyn Police Department arrested Siarhei Hardziyevich on 24 January 2024. The police filed a report against him for violating Article 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, which prohibits the distribution, production, or storage of information products containing calls for extremist activity.

The reason for his arrest and subsequent sentence became apparent on 26 January 2024 in the court. Hardziyevich was responsible, according to local sources, for sharing an online publication from an internet resource recognized by authorities as ‘extremist’ in Belarus.

Hardziyevich attempted to defend himself in court, stating that he had deleted his Vkontakte (Russian online social media and social networking service based in Saint Petersburg) social media account in November 2023, aiming to prove that his actions were not an administrative offense.

Siarhei Hardziyevich’s was not arrested for the first time. When he previously worked for the Piershy Rehijon (https://1reg.org/) online publication he was arrested in December 2020. He was charged with insulting a public officer, disseminating false and humiliating information (slander) containing accusations of committing a serious crime, and publicly insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus. The charges were according to the Criminal Law of Belarus, Article 188, 368 and 369.

Before this trial, Hardziyevich was under house arrest and was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months of imprisonment on 2 August 2021. He completed this sentence on 17 October 2022. In September of the same year, he was added to the list of ‘extremists’.

In September 2023, Hardziyevich was detained at the Brest (Брэст) checkpoint while returning from Poland to Belarus. At the border, authorities decided to inspect his cell phone and subsequently charged him with storing ‘extremist’ content, resulting in another 15-day administrative detention sentence.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the political pressure on Hardziyevich in Belarus and also condemns all cases where he was arrested.

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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