Nasha Niva: Belarusian journalists imprisoned in latest media crackdown

Access to the comments Comments
By AP  with Euronews
Nasha Niva journalist Andrey Skurko (R) pictured at their editorial office in Minsk in 2011.
Nasha Niva journalist Andrey Skurko (R) pictured at their editorial office in Minsk in 2011.   -  Copyright  Sergei Grits/AP, File

Journalists from Belarus’ oldest newspaper Nasha Niva have been imprisoned in the latest crackdown on independent media.

The media outlet's chief editor Yahor Martsinovich and journalist Andrey Skurko were each were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on Tuesday.

Martsinovich and Skurko were accused of dodging communal payments -- charges they have rejected as politically driven. Both have remained in custody since their arrest in July.

“We upheld the freedom of speech and independence of Belarus, but both have now become hollow,” Martsinovich said in a speech at his trial.

“The newspaper has survived two revolutions and two world wars during its history, and now it’s witnessing another war into which Belarus was drawn. We are its victims.”

The Nasha Niva newspaper was blocked in July and banned as an "extremist" entity in November on the 115th anniversary of its founding.

The ban means that anyone who publishes or reposts Nasha Niva content faces prison terms of up to seven years.

Most other journalists from the newspaper have left the country and have continued publishing by changing its domain to bypass the blockade.

Nasha Niva extensively covered the unprecedented anti-government protests that erupted after President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election in August 2020.

Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in office after a vote that was denounced as rigged by the opposition and the West.

Belarusian authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police. Overall, 32 Belarusian journalists are currently in custody, serving their sentences or awaiting trial.

Lukashenko has held on to power despite Western sanctions, relying on support from ally Russia, which used Belarusian territory to help launch its invasion of Ukraine.