September 29, 2023

29.09.2023 – In Belarus Freelance Videographer and Wife Sentenced to Prison for Extremism Charges

On 25 September 2023, a court in Vitsebsk (Віцебск), Belarus, has handed down sentences to freelance video-reporter Vyachaslau Lazarau (Вячаслаў Дзмітрыевіч Лазараў), born 1976, and his wife, Tatsiana Pytsko (Таццяна Леанідаўна Пыцько), on charges related to extremism. Vyachaslau Lazarau received a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence, while Tatsiana Pytsko was sentenced to three years. The trial took place behind closed doors, and both individuals were accused of promoting extremist activities.

Vyachaslau Lazarau was arrested on 9 February 2023, with security forces conducting a search of his home and confiscating his office equipment. He has been in detention in the prison 1Vitebsk SIZA-2 since then. Tatsiana Pytsko was arrested on 6 June 2023 and subsequently charged with creating or participating in an extremist group.

Lazarau worked both on the state regional television and on the private regional TV channel “Nashe TV”.

Vyachaslau Lazarau faced charges under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for promoting extremist activities through his association with a non-state media outlet recognized as extremist in Belarus. According to the case file, Tatsiana was assisting her husband in producing video content.

Following Tatsiana’s arrest, their one-year-old daughter was placed in an orphanage and is now in the custody of relatives.

These sentences come amid an ongoing crackdown on independent media and free speech in Belarus, with many journalists, activists, and individuals from democratic institutions being detained and facing legal action. The international community, including the United States and the European Union, has imposed sanctions on the Belarusian regime in response to the disputed 2020 presidential election and subsequent human rights abuses.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the recent sentencing of Vyachaslau Lazarau and Tatsiana Pytsko, in Belarus. SEEMO calls for the immediate release of Vyachaslau Lazarau, Tatsiana Pytsko, and all journalists and media workers unjustly detained in Belarus. We stand in solidarity with those who strive to uphold the principles of free and independent media, and we urge Belarusian authorities to respect press freedom and the right to express critical voices without fear of persecution.

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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