A Belarusian court sentenced two news portal managers to 12 years in prison

Belarus on Friday handed down long prison sentences to the leaders of the country’s largest independent news site, which was forced to shut down after historic protests against unrecognized President Aliaksandr Lukashenko.

The verdicts are the latest in a years-long crackdown on journalists, opposition figures and activists who questioned Lukashenko’s claims that he won a sixth presidential term in 2020.

The court in the capital Minsk sentenced Marina Zolotova, 45, editor-in-chief of the Tut.by portal, 45, and general director Lyudmila Čekina, 54, to 12 years in prison.

The women have faced a range of charges including tax evasion, which critics say is regularly used as a pretext to silence others, and “incitement to hatred”.

The Association of Belarusian Journalists condemned the sentencing as a “brutal revenge for the truth”.

The case concerns mass rallies against A. Lukashenko that took place after the August 2020 elections and the brutal repression of his critics. Thousands of people were arrested at the rallies, hundreds said they were ill-treated and almost all opposition figures have since been exiled or imprisoned.

The crackdown has also affected journalists and the offices of Tut.by have been raided in an effort to silence opposition voices. In mid-2022, the media group was declared an “extremist organization” and closed.

M. Zolotova and L. Čekina were arrested in May 2021 together with 13 colleagues. Their homes were also searched.

Source: The Delfi

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