Belarus: DW reporter released from prison after 20 days | Press | DW | 01.06.2021
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Belarus: DW reporter released from prison after 20 days

Freelance journalist Alexander Burakov, who regularly reports for DW from Belarus, was released on Tuesday after spending 20 days in detention.

Speaking to DW shortly after his release, Burakov compared the detention facility where he had been kept to a "military prison."

DW Director General Peter Limbourg expressed his concern about the deteriorating media situation in Belarus: "I’m very relieved that our colleague got through the illegal prison sentence more or less unscathed, but there are growing concerns that the spiral of state violence against journalists is continuing to turn. It is becoming more and more likely that the regime in Belarus will try to silence the last independent voices in the country, no matter by what means. The fact that neither the Belarusian ambassador in Berlin nor the authorities in Minsk reacted to our protest against the arrest and conviction of Alexander Burakov is not a good sign."

Burakov said that police guards in the detention facility would not let him get undisturbed sleep, conducting nightly checks: "They were waking me up twice a night every night, taking me out of my cell and telling me to take all my clothes off, including underwear." Similar checks also took place during daytime. In addition, Burakov was moved to a different cell every day. For several days he had to share a double cell with three other detainees. 

Burakov said that police guards hadn’t provided him with a pillow, a blanket or bed linen. "No pillow is the worst," the journalist recalled, adding that he used an empty plastic bottle instead. The police guards also didn’t supply warm clothes despite the low temperature in the prison cells. Food and personal belongings that relatives had brought for Burakov were withheld. The journalist started a hunger strike as an act of protest but had to end it after seven days due to health problems.

Belarus Minsk | Präsident Alexander Lukaschenko

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

On May 12, Burakov had been arrested near a regional court in his hometown Mogilev, 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of Minsk, while being on an editorial assignment for DW’s Russian-language service. Burakov was supposed to report f on the trial of opposition politician Pavel Sevyarynets accused of "taking part in mass unrest."

Weißrussland | Proteste in Mogilev

Protests in Mogilev in September 2020

Three days after his arrest Burakov was sentenced to 20 days in a detention facility on charges of "repeatedly participating in an unsanctioned demonstration within a year." There was no mass protest in Mogilev on May 12.

This is the third time Alexander Burakov has been detained within two years. In 2020, he was sentenced twice to ten days in temporary detention. The clampdown on journalists in Belarus has intensified since the presidential elections in August last year. Many journalists have been fined or imprisoned.

EINSCHRÄNKUNG DW Personenfoto | Corporate Communications | Carla Hagemann

Carla Hagemann

Corporate Spokesperson and Head of Corporate Communications


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