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Independent media in Belarus leave homepages blank in solidarity with jailed journalists

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A screenshot from the front page of reform.by
A screenshot from the front page of reform.by   -   Copyright  Screenshot/reform.by
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Some of Belarus' leading independent media left the images on their homepages blank on Thursday in a show of solidarity with journalists who they said had been jailed in the country.

They posted banners relating to the reported prison sentences of photojournalists Uladz Hrydzin and Alyaksandr Vasyukovich.

"There should have been a picture here. Photojournalists Alyaksandr Vasyukovich and Uladz Hrydzin got 11-day jail terms," read the main image on the website of Belsat — a Polish free-to-air satellite TV channel aimed at Belarus.

screenshot/belsat.eu
The homepage of Belsat's English language website on September 17, 2020.screenshot/belsat.eu

Some of the independent media who featured the banners on their homepages, including RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty's Belarus service, also published articles saying Hrydzin was detained in Minsk on September 13.

RFE/RL said the photographer was correspondent for the organisation in Minsk before he was stripped of his accreditation on August 29.

Hrydzin's fellow photojournalist, freelancer Vasyukovich, was also detained, according to the independent media reports.

The articles said the men were on Wednesday sentenced to 11 days in jail on September 16 after they were "found guilty of violating Belarus's law on mass gatherings".

A third man, a friend of the two photographers, Yahor Kalyahin, was fined 540 rubles (€177) by the Frunze district court on the same charge, according to the articles.

Screenshot/RFE/RL's Belarus Service
The homepage of RFE/RL's Belarus Service on September 17, 2020.Screenshot/RFE/RL's Belarus Service

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an NGO that advocates for press freedom, said at the start of September that over 60 journalists had been arrested in Belarus and at least 19 had been stripped of their accreditations.

Police in Minsk arrested around 50 journalists in the space of a few hours on the evening of August 27, with a first wave of arrests at around 6pm in Svoboda Square where reporters had gathered ahead of an anti-government demonstration, according to RSF.

"RSF regards these measures as an unwarranted attempt to intimidate journalists and gag the media," the organisation said in a statement.

On Sunday more than 100,000 demonstrators calling for Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to resign marched through Minsk as the protests that have gripped the nation entered their sixth week.

The unrest broke out in Belarus after the August 9 presidential election that officials say gave Lukashenko a sixth term with 80% support, but the opposition says the results were rigged.

The EU parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution to impose sanctions on Lukashenko over his disputed re-election and violence perpetrated against protesters.