To “create a climate of mistrust and encourage violence” – by publishing a report denying the police version – a journalist from the main Belarusian website was sentenced Tuesday (2) to six months in prison. Her source, a doctor, received a two-year suspended sentence.
The case began in November last year, when a 31-year-old painter Roman Bondarenko tried to stop police officers tearing off white and red ribbons tied in the courtyard of his apartment building in protest against the dictatorship of Aleksandr Lukachenko.
Videos posted that night on social media showed the painter being beaten by plainclothes police and taken in an unmarked van to a police station. Two hours later, he was transferred to a hospital in Minsk, with a head injury, fell into a coma and died. The day after Bondarenko’s death, police said tests showed he was drunk.
After learning that this statement was false, journalist Katerina Borisevich, 36, of the independent site Tut.by, discovered and published an article titled “Emergency doctor:” Roman Bondarenko had 0 ppm alcohol, nothing Was found “”. In addition to anesthesiologist Artiom Sorokin, 37, who assisted the painter in the hospital, witnesses and family supported the claim that he had not been drinking.
The journalist and her source were arrested a week later on charges of “divulging medical secrets with serious consequences”. The attorney general’s office argued that reports that the painter was sober during his arrest “increased tension in society, created a climate of mistrust of the authorities and encouraged citizens to attack and undertake illegal actions “.
A journalist for 15 years, Borisevich has specialized in legal issues and has won several awards, including the first diploma in “Journalistic Professionalism and Skills”, awarded by the Attorney General’s office, which has now accused her.
Lawyers for the journalist and doctor intend to appeal – until appealed, Borisevich will be held in a pre-trial detention center. Sorokin was released on bail. If after one year you do not commit any new crime, your sentence will be suspended.
The case had already led to the conviction of two television reporters on February 18, for having filmed a demonstration against the repression of the dictatorship and the death of the painter. They were accused of “inciting the population to express themselves illegally through their reporting, which seriously undermined public order” – in Belarus, demonstrations are prohibited without the authorization of the regime and journalists have been arrested to cover them, even though they work. , identified and accredited.
Since the presidential election – deemed fraudulent – on August 9 of last year, more than 400 journalists have been arrested, many of whom have been administratively sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 days. Ten are in prison awaiting trial. Foreign correspondents were expelled and their credentials lost.
Journalists and human rights activists have become the main targets of Lukashenko’s crackdown in recent months. Dozens of independent websites have been shut down and the regime searched several offices, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
According to the dictatorship, the entities are accused of “supporting demonstrations and acting as foreign agents, organizing and financing demonstrations under the guise of human rights activities”.