Dear HE Ambassador Yermalovich,
Index on Censorship expresses our alarm at the detention in Belarus of our friend and former colleague, journalist Andrei Aliaksandrau. As you will be aware Aliaksandrau was detained along with his partner, Irina Zlobina, in Minsk on Tuesday 12 January 2021. We understand that they are both being held incommunicado in a Minsk jail.
Aliaksandrau is a long-standing champion of media freedom, having sought to uphold this fundamental right as a journalist, and through his work at freedom of expression NGOs including both Index on Censorship and Article 19. We are extremely concerned to learn that he is being detained as a suspect in a criminal public order case instituted by the Minsk Department of the Investigative Committee.
On 14 January, police raided the offices of the independent BelaPAN news agency claiming they were looking for evidence related to the criminal case against Aliaksandrau. Aliaksandrau is no longer a BelaPAN staff member, having left his post as deputy director in 2018. Nonetheless, several pieces of equipment were confiscated from BelaPAN’s offices, including personal computers.
Index on Censorship condemns in the strongest terms the detention of our former colleague and his partner. We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release them and unconditionally drop all charges against them. Moreover, we condemn the subsequent raid on BelaPAN’s office and remind the Belarusian authorities that repressive measures taken as a reaction to the voicing of critical opinions about the government are incompatible with the right to freedom of expression and a clear violation of Belarus’ obligations under international law.
We urge your government to exercise restraint and to cease all further interference with the core human rights of those who are peacefully and legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression. We call on you to release everyone, including Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina, who are imprisoned for their defence of that right.
Index on Censorship
[This letter has been updated with new facts on dates of detention]