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Belarus sends one more independent journalist to prison

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TALLINN, Estonia — A Belarusian court sentenced another freelance journalist to three years in prison on Thursday, a second jail term handed to a journalist from the European county this week in a years-long crackdown on independent media.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Aliaksandr Liubianchuk was convicted of participating in an extremist group. Liubianchuk had worked with a number of independent media, including the Polish TV channel Belsat, which was banned as an extremist in Belarus.

He has extensively covered the mass protests that erupted in Belarus after its authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko was given a sixth term after the August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West denounced as rigged. Lukashenko’s government responded to the protests with a brutal crackdown, in which more than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were badly beaten by police.

Liubianchuk was arrested in May and spent six months behind bars. Letters Liubianchuk wrote to his family and colleagues in prison revealed that his health had deteriorated significantly in detention. Human rights groups have declared him a political prisoner – one of more than 1,300 in Belarus.

On Wednesday, a prominent investigative journalist, Siarhei Satsuk, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Independent journalists were the first to face government repression. Many were arrested by the security services or fled the country. A total of 32 reporters are currently behind bars, either awaiting trial or serving their sentences, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

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