June 30, 2024

29 June 2024: Urgent Appeal to Serbian Authorities to Protect Andrey Gnyot from Extradition to Belarus

Belarusian journalist, filmmaker and political activist Andrey Gnyot (Андрэй Гнёт), currently under house arrest in Belgrade, Serbia, faces the imminent threat of extradition to Belarus, one of the most repressive countries in the world regarding journalistic and political freedoms. This extradition decision, handed down by the High Court in Belgrade, has sparked widespread concern and calls for its reversal to protect Gnyot from political persecution, torture, and a potentially long prison sentence.

Veran Matić, executive director of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (Asocijacija Nezavisnih Elektronskih Medija – ANEM – http://www.anem.org.rs/), recently visited Gnyot, who had spent seven months in Central Prison in Belgrade, before being placed under house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet. Matić observed that although Gnyot appears physically well, “the prison has left its mark, and he needs health support, which is not provided systemically.” Gnyot is allowed to leave his apartment for one hour each day for essential activities, but the overall conditions are far from adequate.

Belarus, where the death penalty is still practiced, is notorious for its harsh treatment of journalists, ranking third globally for the number of imprisoned journalists. Over thirty journalists are currently detained under severe conditions. The charges against Gnyot, which include tax evasion, are widely recognized as pretexts for silencing his journalistic and political activism.

Gnyot played a pivotal role in the 2020 protests against the fraudulent elections in Belarus. He co-founded the Free Union of Athletes of Belarus (SOS BY), an organization that demanded an end to violence and called for new, fair elections. Their efforts included a significant letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which resulted in the IOC ceasing funding to the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOC) and forcing President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (Аляксандр Лукашэнка) to resign from his position within the NOC.

Additionally, Gnyot used his journalistic skills to document and share information about the protests, collaborating with various media outlets, including the TV channel Current Time (Настоящее Время – https://www.currenttime.tv/p/6018.html). His contributions have been crucial in bringing international attention to the repressive actions of the Belarusian regime. Veran Matić emphasized, “Andrey Gnyot’s work has been invaluable in shedding light on the injustices in Belarus. The charges against him are clearly motivated by his efforts to expose the truth.”

The journalistic and civil society communities in Serbia, along with international advocates, are urged to support Gnyot and prevent his extradition. “Journalists must be protected from political persecution,” Matić stated, “and it is imperative that we all fight together to ensure Andrey Gnyot’s freedom.” Gnyot’s legal team is preparing an appeal,
hoping the Court of Appeal will consider the evidence and reverse the extradition decision.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, alongside Serbian laws, obligates Serbian authorities to assess the risks of political persecution and irreparable harm should Gnyot be extradited to Belarus. “The international community’s support is crucial in ensuring that Serbian authorities
avoid making a grave mistake with severe consequences for Gnyot,” said Matić.

The fight for “Freedom for Andrey Gnyot” continues, highlighting the ongoing struggle for journalistic and political freedoms in repressive regimes. The global journalistic community and civil society must stand in solidarity to protect Gnyot and uphold the principles of free speech and human rights. As Matić poignantly noted, “The case of Andrey Gnyot is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by journalists worldwide. We
must act now to prevent his extradition and protect his right to freedom.”

Gnyot, was detained in Serbia in October 2023 under an Interpol Red Alert, following an extradition request from Belarus, based on accusations of violating Belarus’s tax legislation. He spent first the time in detention in Belgrade before being transferred to house arrest on 6 June 2024.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the decision by Serbian authorities to extradite Belarusian journalist Andrey Gnyot to Belarus, where he faces severe political persecution, torture, and possibly even the death penalty. This extradition directly violates the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as Serbian laws designed to protect individuals from political repression. We urge the Serbian authorities to reconsider this grave decision, protect Gnyot from further harm, and uphold the fundamental principles of press freedom and human rights. SEEMO stands in solidarity with Andrey Gnyot and calls for his immediate release and protection.

You can read previous SEEMO article about this case here:

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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