Belarus: Journalist Andrzej Poczobut sentenced to 8 years in prison

UPDATED 10.02.23 Hrodna Regional Court sentenced Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut to eight years in prison, on 8 February 2023. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) joined their affiliate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) in condemning a political verdict.

Credits: Andrzej Poczobut

Andrzej Poczobut was found guilty of encouraging actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus and inciting ethnic hostility. He was arrested in March 2021 and refused to sign a petition to be pardoned by Lukashenko after his arrest. “I do not have any illusions, I will take the sentence calmly and with a calm conscience go to prison,” Andrzej Poczobut wrote in a letter published by his newspaper last August.

According to media reports, Poczobut refused to leave Belarus after Lukashenko suppressed mass protests against his rule in the summer of 2020.

“From the very beginning, Andrzej Poczobut’s case looked like a reprisal for the dissent and the long-standing public position of the journalist. Today’s verdict, delivered in a closed session, has nothing to do with justice and is revenge on our colleague,” said BAJ in a press release.

The BAJ and the Federations call for the immediate release of Andrzej Poczobut and all 33 media representatives currently imprisoned in Belarus: “We do not forget them. We call again on the international institutions and European countries to increase diplomatic pressure against the Belarusian leadership and to intensify sanctions against all agents of repression in Belarus.”

IFJ polish affiliate SDP (Polish Journalists Association) said: "We strongly condemn the unjust sentence for Andrzej Poczobut, a Polish and Belarusian journalist and patriot (...) His trial and conviction are elements of the regime's repression against freedom of speech and the Polish minority (...) We appeal to the Belarusian authorities to release the journalist and stop the repression against representatives of national minorities and the media in Belarus."

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