Andrei Kuznechyk, a freelance journalist for Radio Svaboda, was detained on November 25, 2021. His apartment was searched. After the detention, the law enforcers briefly managed to seize control over the Telegram channel “Radio Svaboda”. The next day Andrei Kuznechyk was sentenced to 10 days of administrative imprisonment by the Zavodski District Court of Minsk, but on December 5, he was not released and was again sentenced to 10 days of administrative imprisonment by the same court. However, on 15 December he was not released, either.
On December 23, Andrei’s relatives were informed that a criminal case was brought against him, but no information was given as to what article the criminal case was based on. Kuznechyk was transferred to pre-trial detention center no. 1 on Valadarskaha Street in Minsk. So far, his relatives have not been informed of the charges.
We, the undersigned organizations, consider all these actions in relation to journalist Andrei Kuznechyk as a continuation of the targeted policy of the authorities to limit the dissemination of uncensored information in the country and a continuation of the attack on freedom of speech. After the 2020 presidential election, dozens of NGO and media websites have been blocked in Belarus, a number of printed media have been closed, journalists and employees of the Belarusian media sector have been imprisoned.
Given the circumstances, we believe that criminal prosecution of Andrei Kuznechyk is politically motivated and aimed at stopping or changing the nature of his legitimate public activities in the sphere of non-violent exercise of freedom of expression and dissemination of information.
In our statement of August 10, 2020, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10, 2020 on the authorities of Belarus.
Based on this and guided by para. 2.1 and 3.1 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners adopted at III Belarusian Human Rights Forum, we, human rights defenders, recognize Andrei Kuznechyk as political prisoner and call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- immediately release Andrei Kuznechyk and drop criminal charges against him;
- refrain from using criminal prosecution as an instrument of pressure on freedom of expression, or other rights and freedoms;
- immediately release all political prisoners, as well as other individuals detained in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression in the country.
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Helsinki Committee