Two days ahead of Belarus’ presidential election, Belarusian police in Minsk were expected to deport three detained Current Time journalists on August 7 for unclear reasons. One member of the team reported that they have been banned from entering Belarus for 10 years.
The group -- Evening news anchor Iryna Romaliiska and correspondents Yury Baranyuk and Ivan Grebeniuk -- had been covering Belarus’ presidential campaign for the Russian-language television-digital network run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in association with the Voice of America.
In a Facebook post, Grebenyuk stated that the journalists had been banned from entering Belarus for 10 years. The group was awaiting a late-night flight from Minsk’s airport to Odesa, Ukraine.
“Friends, we are already at the airport. All is well! Thank you all! Deportation. Under close supervision. Entry ban for 10 years …”
Romaliiska and Grebenyuk are Ukrainian citizens, based in Current Time’s headquarters in the Czech capital, Prague; Baranyuk is a Russian citizen based in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Police detained the journalists on August 7 in the Belarusian capital’s Hotel Minsk.
Current Time, a non-governmental outlet run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in association with the Voice of America, has sent a request for information about these detentions to Belarus’ Interior Ministry.
Based on preliminary information, the detention appears to be connected to the journalists’ accreditation status.
“Our Current Time journalists were detained in the course of professionally carrying out their work covering the Belarusian presidential election,” commented RFE/RL Acting President and Editor-in-Chief Daisy Sindelar. “Current Time requested accreditation for its journalists well in advance of the election."
"The failure by Belarusian authorities to grant credentials is yet another example of their contempt for the rights of a free press and the right of Belarusians to uncensored Information," Sindelar said. "We are outraged by their detention and demand respect for the internationally recognized rights of journalists to do their work.”
The detentions took place following a four-hour August 6 live program about the Belarusian election campaign. The broadcast, which included footage from a rally in Minsk for main opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has been viewed more than 500,000 times on social media.
Detentions of independent journalists, bloggers, and Tsikhanouskaya supporters as well as arrests of opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have marked Belarus’ 2020 presidential election campaign.