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Deutsche Welle freelance reporter Alyaksandr Burakou was one of the two reporters detained. (file photo)

Belarus has sentenced two reporters, including one working for German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, to 20 days in jail for allegedly participating in an unsanctioned demonstration.

The May 15 ruling is the latest in a series by Belarusian courts aimed at intimidating reporters covering the state’s brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, critics say

Deutsche Welle freelance reporter Alyaksandr Burakou and independent reporter Uladzimer Laptsevich were detained on May 12 in Mahileu, a town 200 kilometers east of the Belarusian capital, Minsk, where they were waiting to cover the trial of opposition politician Paval Severinets.

Uladzimer Laptsevich (file photo)
Uladzimer Laptsevich (file photo)

Belarusian police charged them with "repeatedly participating in an unsanctioned demonstration within a year."

The reporters rejected the charges. Belarusian human rights group MayDay said there was no mass demonstration on May 12 in front of the court in Mahileu.

Deutsche Welle Director-General Peter Limbourg called on Belarusian officials to free the reporters immediately.

"We strongly protest against the violation of the constitutionally guaranteed press rights in Belarus," Limbourg said in a statement. "This accusation was constructed arbitrarily, and the way [Alyaksandr] Burakou has been treated shows that the regime is taking increasingly ruthless actions against journalists."

Burakou told the court that he had been subject to inhumane treatment in the detention facility. He complained that police guards regularly woke him, hampering his sleep.

He also said they failed to hand him personal care products and warm clothes brought to the detention center by his family.

Belarusian authorities have stepped up their repression of journalists and bloggers ever since the start of mass protests sparked by the August 9 presidential election.

Protesters say the election was rigged in favor of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus since 1994.

Dozens of reporters have been temporarily detained or jailed over the ensuing nine months. Burakou was detained right before the election initially on a charge of "transporting counterfeit alcohol."

However, he was later sentenced to 10 days in jail for petty hooliganism in what he said was an attempt to prevent him from covering the election.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger told Deutsche Welle on May 14 that the repression of journalists was "unacceptable" and "a clear violation of Belarus's international obligations."

With reporting by Deutsche Welle
Temirlan Ensebek talks to reporters outside a police station in Almaty on May 15.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Police in Kazakhstan have detained an Instagram blogger over satirical posts he made on the social media platform as the government continues to pressure political opponents.

Police searched the home of Temirlan Ensebek in Almaty on May 15 and seized his equipment, his wife told RFE/RL.

Yensebek is a member of Oyan, Qazaqstan (Wake Up, Kazakhstan!), a group that supports political reform in the authoritarian Central Asian nation.

A few supporters of the blogger protested outside the police station where he was being questioned.

Ensebek's wife said he could face charges of knowingly spreading false information that puts public order in danger.

His wife said she did not know which post could have caused the police investigation. All posts on his Qaznews24 Instagram page have been deleted.

Some of Ensebek's satirical posts poking fun at the nation’s authoritarian system were widely discussed on social media.

In one of his posts, he joked that Muslim leaders in Kazakhstan had proposed giving former President Nursultan Nazarbaev that status of a god and recommended incorporating that into the constitution.

Kazakhstan changed the name of its capital to Nur-Sultan in 2019 to honor Nazarbaev, who ruled with an iron fist from the nation’s independence in 1991 until 2019.

He continues to wield considerable influence as chairman of the Security Council.

In another post, Ensebek said the Interior Ministry was preparing a law that would limit the right of Kazakh citizens to travel abroad to just one time a year.

Under President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, who was handpicked by Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan continues to clamp down on freedom of speech and harass opposition members.

Police last year detained dozens of journalists and bloggers and launched criminal cases for alleged crimes such as spreading false information and inciting the public, according to Adilsoz, a local media watchdog.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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