″Absolute farce″: what they say in Germany and Belarus about the sentence of journalist Slavnikova | Belarus: view from Europe – DW special project | DW

The trial of Belarusian journalist, former employee of the Belsat TV channel Irina Slavnikova lasted more than a month. Her case was considered by the judge of the Gomel Regional Court Nikolai Dolya – it was he who in December 2021 sentenced Sergei Tikhanovsky to 18 years in prison. The prosecution was represented by prosecutor Irina Podkovyrova.

Little is known about the process itself: it began on June 23, was held behind closed doors, the lawyers signed a non-disclosure agreement. The fact that the prosecutor demanded to sentence Irina Slavnikova to four years in prison became known from her letter to her relatives. As a result, the court found the journalist guilty of leading an extremist group, gross violation of public order, and delivered a verdict: five years in prison – a year more than the prosecutor requested.

DJV: Calling a job for a TV channel a crime is a crime in itself

The German Union of Journalists (DJV) in a comment to DW called the verdict Irina Slavnikova “another act of arbitrariness of the Belarusian dictatorship.”

Participants of a protest action against the persecution of journalists in Belarus

Hundreds of journalists have been detained in Belarus since 2020

“After the complete elimination of freedom of the press and other fundamental rights, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko brutally and mercilessly persecutes all dissidents in Belarus.

Irina Slavnikova did nothing but go about her work. Calling her work for the TV channel a crime is a crime in itself, for which Lukashenka and his henchmen must be held accountable,” the largest journalistic organization in Germany said.

Member of the Bundestag: “This verdict is an absolute farce”

Member of the Bundestag from the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), member of the committee for media and culture Thomas Hacker (Thomas Hacker) became a symbolic cross for Irina Slavnikova as part of the campaign of solidarity with Belarusian prisoners #WeStandByYou.

“Irina Slavnikova’s verdict is an absolute farce. I have nothing more to add to this,” he said, commenting on the court’s verdict for DW. “With show trials, fabricated charges and merciless sentences against innocent people, the regime wants to further suppress the courageous to preserve their crumbling power.”

RSF: “The accusations against Slavnikova are far-fetched”

The German branch of the international non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for the immediate release of Slavnikova, and called her sentence a blow to press freedom. “Irina Slavnikova has to go to prison solely because of her journalistic activities. The Belarusian regime punishes her for her work for a Polish TV channel and uses its compliant judicial system for this,” the organization said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders claims that the accusations against the journalist are far-fetched: she was found guilty of creating and leading an extremist organization, although Belsat, with which the investigation linked her activities, was not recognized as such at the time of Slavnikova’s arrest.

“In addition, the regime seems to be afraid of an open trial of a well-known journalist: there is no other explanation for the fact that the trial was moved to Gomel, although Irina Slavnikova lived in the Belarusian capital, where she was arrested and was in custody.”

Belsat: “It is important to remain in solidarity with Irina and her family”

“We understood that if the so-called process is underway, then for sure it will not end in one or two years, if we take into account the sentence of our colleague Katerina Andreeva”, – says Aleksey Dikovitsky, a colleague of Irina Slavnikova and a representative of the Belsat TV channel. According to him, when the verdict was postponed – it was supposed to be announced on August 2 – it became clear that “everything would go for the worse.”

“The fact that we were recognized as an extremist formation is absurd in itself,” Dikovitsky is sure. “How can the media be called an extremist group? Are we being equated with Al-Qaeda? just like the articles by which our colleagues are judged.”

Nevertheless, under these articles journalists receive real terms. Aleksey Dikovitsky believes that in such conditions “it is important to remain in solidarity with Irina Slavnikova and her family, write letters to her, send telegrams.”

“It is extremely important to know that they remember you. This also affects those who guard political prisoners. The main thing is not to let the democratic world forget about Irina and other political prisoners. We will continue to raise this issue at all forums and high meetings with politicians” , – emphasizes the Belsat employee.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) also demanded to cancel the sentence of Irina Slavnikova. “By this decision, the closed court in Gomel has actually equated the right to receive and disseminate information to extremist activity,” the BAJ statement says. “Belarusian authorities continue to persecute journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression. But journalists are not extremists, and dissent is not a crime “.

Irina Slavnikova, a journalist for the Polish TV channel TVP, was detained on October 30, 2021 at the Minsk airport, when she and her husband were returning from a holiday in Egypt. First, she was tried twice for “distributing extremist materials”, which the investigation considered links to the publications of the Belsat TV channel on her personal Facebook page.

On November 26, it became known that a criminal case was opened against Irina under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (Organization or participation in actions grossly violating public order). Later, she was accused of leading an extremist formation (Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus).

Witnesses in the case were journalists Daria Chultsova and Ekaterina Andreeva. In February 2021, by a court decision, they were sentenced to two years in prison for streaming from the “Square of Changes” in Minsk. A few months before her release, Ekaterina Andreeva was re-tried under the article on treason, sentenced to eight years in prison.

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