The Polish-Belarusian correspondent was arrested in March 2021 following a crackdown against opposition critics by the Belarussian President, Alexander Lukashenko that began the previous year. Mr Poczobut had reportedly refused to leave the country after the suppression of mass protests, instead choosing to continue reporting from the country up until his arrest.
On 8th February 2023 he was found guilty by a regional court of “encouraging actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus and inciting ethnic hostility.”
“We call for the immediate release of Andrzej Poczobut and for Belarusian authorities to stop their pursuit of journalists and the ongoing criminalisation of the profession in the country,” said a statement from WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum (WEF).
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) also denounced the verdict, calling the decision reprisal for the dissent and long-standing public position of the journalist.
Mr Poczobut, who reported for Polish media organisation Gazeta Wyborcza, joins over 30 fellow journalists reportedly imprisoned in Belarus. In its statement, WAN-IFRA and WEF called on the Belarusian authorities to release all jailed journalists and end its harassment of the press:
“The Belarusian authorities have demonstrated their contempt for justice and willingness to target critics and dissenting voices. We condemn the politically motivated sentencing of Andrzej Poczobut and demand that he – and all colleagues currently imprisoned in Belarus – be immediately released. No journalist should be targeted for doing their duty.”
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