Iryna Slaunikava (Ірына Слаўнікава), a journalist who received a five-year prison sentence for charges of “creating an extremist formation,” recently marked her 53rd birthday on 12 July, 2023. Alongside her husband, Aliaksandr Loika (Аляксандр Лойка), they were detained upon their return from a vacation on 30 October, 2021. While Aliaksandr was released after 45 days, Iryna faced multiple accusations related to her journalistic work at the Belsat TV channel (Белсат). On 3 August, 2022, she was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for organizing activities that significantly disrupted public order and participating in an extremist group.
While in custody, Iryna Slaunikava has revealed that she is facing deteriorating eyesight, which she believes is a result of inadequate lighting in the pre-trial detention center where she was confined. Moreover, her situation has been further exacerbated by the demanding workload imposed on her in the sewing service at Women’s Prison in Gomel. Her husband has stated that female prisoners effectively function as unpaid seamstresses, leaving them with minimal leisure time due to their work commitments.
Aliaksandr Loika, who was forced to leave Belarus due to the risk of prosecution, is actively involved in efforts to facilitate negotiations for the release of individuals being held as hostages by the current regime. Unfortunately, progress has been impeded by the refusal of Belarusian authorities to participate in discussions regarding political prisoners, as they consistently exaggerate their demands.
The case of Iryna Slaunikava serves as a stark reminder of the difficulties encountered by journalists and individuals held as political prisoners in Belarus, where there is a growing concern for human rights violations. The predicament faced by individuals like Iryna emphasizes the urgent requirement for international focus and assistance in addressing the continuous violations of human rights within the nation.