The independent journalists covered an annual street action of the Belarusian opposition, The Chernobyl Way, that commemorates the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
The journalists were detained by plain-clothed police officers on Friday evening on their way to editorial office. The police claimed the journalists “behaved in a suspicious way” and allegedly forcibly resisted detention. Barbarych and Yarashevich spent the weekend in a detention centre and stood an administrative trial on Monday. Judge Kiryl Paluleh sentenced them to three days of arrest each for “unlawful resistance to legitimate claims of police officers”, despite the fact accusations against the reporters were only based on contradictory evidence from the police.
The journalists denied the charges, saying the plain-clothed officers failed to present valid police IDs and they did not resist their detention.
Both reporters were released on Monday evening.
“I think the reason for our detention were pictures we made. Our cameras were confiscated, and given back to us with all the photos deleted,” Henadz Barbarych told Radio Liberty.
Detentions and physical violence of the police against journalists during street rallies have become quite common in Belarus.
Several civil activists were also detained on 26 April. Short-term detentions were aimed at preventing activists of a Belarusian ecological and anti-nuclear movement from participating in the rally. Three more activists were detained after The Chernobyl Way; one of them, Ihar Truhanovich, was beaten by the police. Iryna Arahouskaya and Aksana Rudovich, journalists of the Nasha Niva newspaper, who were filming the beating of Truhanovich, were also detained for about an hour, but later released.
“The authorities of Belarus keep demonstrating its brutality. They act with impunity for citizens of Belarus to keep living in fear. Such illogical and unnecessary violence serves as a signal to the society that even if the government sanctions events, they don’t endorse them, and people should be afraid to participate in any oppositional street actions,” says Uladzimir Matskevich, the Chair of the Coordination Committee of the Belarus National Civil Society Platform.