Belarusian journalist Syarhey Satsuk (file photo)
MINSK -- Another Belarusian journalist has gone on trial on charges that many consider unfounded and politically motivated as a crackdown on independent media, political dissent, and democratic institutions continues in the country that has been run by the authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka since 1994.
The Minsk City Court started the trial of Syarhey Satsuk, the chief editor of the Yezhednevnik (Daily News) website, on September 23 behind closed doors. Satsuk, an investigative journalist, was arrested in early December after police searched his home. He was charged with bribe-taking at the time but he said in a letter, which he managed to circulate from behind bars, that he faced new charges as well. One of his former cellmates said later that Satsuk was additionally charged with inciting hatred and abuse of office. It is not known what actions the charges stem from exactly. Belarusian human rights organizations have recognized Satsuk as a political prisoner. Satsuk is one of 28 Belarusian journalists who are currently in custody, many of whom have been jailed since an August 2020 presidential election where Lukashenka was officially announced as the winner. Rights activists and opposition politicians, however, say the poll was rigged.
Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests over the results and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.
Lukashenka has refused to negotiate with the opposition and many of its leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country. The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the police crackdown.