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CPJ: ex-journalist Larysa Shchyrakova detained in Belarus on undisclosed charges

10.12.2022 Source: cpj.org

Belarusian authorities should publicly disclose the reason for former Belsat TV journalist Larysa Shchyrakova’s arrest or release her immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, December 6, authorities in the southeastern city of Homel detained Shchyrakova, a former journalist with the banned Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV, after searching her home, according to media reports and a report by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an advocacy and trade group operating from exile.

Authorities did not disclose the reason for Shchyrakova’s detention, according to those sources.

Shchyrakova worked as a freelancer for Belsat TV from 2007 until February 2022, when she announced she was leaving journalism amid continued government harassment and detentions, according to her announcement and BAJ deputy head Barys Haretski, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

“Belarusian authorities’ lack of disclosure around the detention of former journalist Larysa Shchyrakova is deeply concerning,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities should immediately reveal any charges filed against her, and ensure that members of the press are not targeted for their work.”

Belarusian authorities have repeatedly harassed and detained Belsat TV employees, and previously fined and detained Shchyrakova, and searched her home in relation to her work with the outlet, according to media reports and Haretski.

In September, Shchyrakova posted messages in support of her former Belsat TV colleague Yauhen Merkis, detained on charges of facilitating extremist activity, according to that BAJ report.

Shchyrakova’s son was taken from his school to a youth shelter on the day his mother was detained, according to the human rights group Homelskaya Viasna.

“It seems like she is detained in a criminal case, otherwise they could not detain her, as her son is a minor,” Haretski said.

Since she left journalism in February, Shchyrakova has worked as a photographer documenting Belarusian cultural practices, according to the BAJ.

CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment, but did not receive any response.