July 20, 2023

20.07.2023 – Trials Begins for Belarusian Journalist Facing Potential 6-Year Prison Sentence for Reporting Oppostion

A prominent journalist, Pavel Mazheika (Павел Мажэйка), has gone on trial on Monday 10 July 2023 in Belarus as part of an ongoing crackdown on opposition figures, independent journalists, human rights activists and other critical voices in the country. Mazheika faces charges of assisting extremist activity, which could lead to a prison sentence of up to six years for his coverage of the political opposition. The Belarusian authorities have labeled the news outlets he worked for, including Belsat TV, as “extremist.” The trial is a continuation of the repressive environment faced by journalists and activists since the disputed 2020 elections, marked by mass protests and a subsequent crackdown, resulting in arrests, violence, and the closure of independent media outlets.

Mazheika born 1982, who was detained on 30 August 2022, has been in custody for over 10 months, and has alleged severe mistreatment during his arrest. He is among the 35 Belarusian media workers currently detained or awaiting trial, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

The trial underscores the authoritarian nature of the President of Belarus Lukashenko (Аляксандр Лукашэнка) regime, which has been condemned by opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (Сьвятлана Ціханоўская). Tsikhanouskaya emphasized that Mazheika’s presence in the dock is a testament to the regime’s classification of anyone challenging the dictatorship as an extremist. Belarus is known to have a significant number of recognized political prisoners, with the Viasna human rights center reporting 1,491 individuals currently incarcerated. The trial of Mazheika and the targeting of journalists in Belarus highlight the ongoing threats to press freedom and human rights in the country.

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