Two Belarusian journalists, including a freelance writer from Deutsche Welle (DW), were jailed and claimed to have been tortured, the Belarusian Association of Journalists said.
Freelance journalist Alexander Bourakov, who works for the DW, and Vladimir Laptsevich, reporter for a local online news site, were detained in the eastern town of Mogilev on Wednesday. They were arrested while covering the trial of Pavel Sevyarynets, an opponent, and several other prominent figures.
“Torture and inhuman treatment”
A court in Mogilev sentenced them on Saturday for participating in “an unauthorized event,” the association said. During the hearing, Alexander Bourakov reported “torture and inhuman treatment” during his pre-trial detention, said the DW and the association.
“He said he was repeatedly woken up at night and forced by the guards to undress,” the DW added.
The two journalists went on a hunger strike in protest.
A campaign against the media
Deutsche Welle urged Belarusian authorities to overturn the sentence immediately, saying President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime was acting with “increasing severity” towards journalists. “We strongly protest against the violation of constitutionally guaranteed press rights in Belarus,” said Peter Limburg, Director General of the DW.
Belarus has been the scene of unprecedented anti-government protests since the disputed presidential election last August, which saw Alexander Lukashenko enter a sixth term after a contested ballot.
The forces of order repress the demonstrations, arrest the participants and push the leaders of the opposition into exile.
A campaign to muzzle independent media is underway, journalists have been sentenced to prison terms. Sixteen of them are currently behind bars, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.