Son of detained ex-journalist found in orphanage. His father about to arrive from Siberia

09.12.2022 Source: Служба маніторынгу Беларускай асацыяцыі журналістаў

Former journalist Larysa Shchyrakova has been in Homel temporary detention center for three days now, and her minor son Sviataslau was found in a repair for children in the settlement of Biarozki in Homel District. This is just 1.5 km away from his home.

The food parcel for Larysa was not accepted by the detention center administration. She is likely to be transferred to a pre-trial facility soon.

The reasons for Shchyrakova’s detention are still unknown. According to her family, on 6 December law-enforcement officers raided the private house where the woman lives. So far, she does not have a lawyer.

Larysa’s relatives managed to contact Sviataslau’s father, who has lived in Novosibirsk for a long time. He is the first person on the list of potential official guardians.

Ex-journalist’s home was already searched a year ago by the Financial Investigations Department. As a result, her phone, photo and video equipment, and data carriers (hard drives and flash drives) were seized.

At the interrogation that followed, Larysa refused to testify against herself. She also was banned from disclosing the details of the case. At that time, similar searches took place in the homes of public activists in Homel, Rechytsa, Kalinkavichy, and Mazyr.

Previously, Larysa Shchyrakova cooperated with independent publications. But back in 2021, she publicly stated that she was quitting journalism because of the harassment she had to endure for working without accreditation. Ex-journalist was held administratively liable over 40 times, including for her coverage of post-election protests. She would not get arrested only because she was raising her minor son alone.

By training, Shchyrakova is an English teacher. She used to head the local history organization Talaka, now liquidated by the authorities.

Over the past few months, the ex-journalist has been engaged in ethnic photo shoots – taking pictures of people in Belarusian folk costumes and related places. This year she enrolled in a psychology course. Despite the threats, Shchyrakova chose to stay in Belarus.

She made documentaries and implemented her own project to honor the repressed in the USSR titled “The Murdered and Forgotten.” Shchyrakova recorded the testimonies of relatives of the repressed dissidents and used those records to produce publications and documentaries. Larysa also starred in movies, in particular, playing the role of a famous compatriot, Paluta Badunova, a girl of the Belarusian Renaissance, in a documentary of the same name with elements of staging.

Three years ago, Larysa Shchyrakova organized an educational project at the “Mediapastora” event space, where fans of video cameras and photo lenses learned the basics of journalism. Famous journalists, including those from Sweden, passed on their experience within the project.

In September this year, after the detention of her former colleague Yauhen Merkis, Shchyrakova talked about the arrests of journalists on her social media and shared information about actions of solidarity with Merkis that took place abroad.