Two Belarus journalists jailed, ‘tortured’: media group

Two Belarusian journalists including a freelance reporter for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, were jailed for 20 days on Saturday, and complained of torture while in pre-trial detention, a media group said.

Freelance reporter Alexander Burakov, who works for Deutsche Welle (DW), and Vladimir Laptsevich, a journalist with local online news portal Mogilev Region, were on Wednesday detained outside a courthouse in the eastern city of Mogilev.

Both were there to cover the trial of opposition politician Pavel Sevyarynets and several other figures.

A court in Mogilev on Saturday found Burakov and Laptsevich guilty of repeated participation in “an unauthorised event,” said the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

During the court hearing, Burakov reported “torture and inhumane treatment” during his pre-trial detention, according to said both DW and the Belarusian media group.

“He said he was repeatedly woken up at night and the guards forced him to strip naked,” the German broadcaster said.

Laptsevich also reported torture in detention, said the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

Both journalists launched a hunger strike in protest, the Belarusian Association said.

Deutsche Welle urged Belarusian authorities to overturn the verdict immediately, saying strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime was acting with “increasing ruthlessness” against journalists.

“We strongly protest the violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the press in Belarus,” DW director general Peter Limbourg was quoted as saying.

Belarus was gripped by months of unprecedented anti-government demonstrations that erupted after a disputed presidential election last August saw Lukashenko claim a sixth term in office.

Belarusian security forces unleashed a harsh crackdown against the protests, detaining demonstrators and pushing opposition leaders into exile.

A campaign to muzzle independent media followed, with some journalists receiving prison terms.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, 16 journalists in the ex-Soviet country are currently behind bars.

Earlier this week independent journalist Tatyana Kapitonova was accused of taking part in an unsanctioned rally and jailed for ten days

On Friday, Lyubov Kasperovich, a journalist with tut.by, a top independent Belarusian media outlet, was detained as she reported on the trial of students.