Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Belarusian security forces have raided a Minsk studio used by Belsat, a Polish-based satellite station that has produced investigations critical of authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his associates, the station said.

On the afternoon of May 21, "uniformed services broke into a Minsk-based studio that is regularly used for filming and making the Belsat TV talk show Each Of Us (Kozhny Z Nas)," the independent news outlet said on its website.

Belsat added that "four cameramen, a sound engineer, and a studio administrator" were detained and were taken to a detention center.

Hleb Labadzenka, the host of Each Of Us, confirmed that the raid had taken place. He was not taken into custody, Belsat said.

SEE ALSO: Chronicling The Bloody Belarus Crackdown Is An Imperative For This Online News Editor, Despite Pressure

The studio was being prepared for a future program and no filming was taking place when the raid took place, the news outlet said.

In April, Belsat conducted an investigation into the business dealings of Lukashenka's daughter-in-law, Liliya, and others associated with the autocratic leader.

Earlier this year, two journalists for Belsat, which aims its broadcasts to Belarus, were handed what their lawyers called an 'absurd' sentence of two years in prison each for reporting live from a rally in Minsk in November.

The European Union and rights watchdogs declared that it was part of an ongoing crackdown on independent media.

Separately on May 21, Belsat said two freelance journalists had been detained in Minsk and were taken to a Department of Internal Affairs facility. They were to appear in court on May 24, the report said, although details were not available.

According to its website, Belsat was formed in 2007 by a group of Polish and Belarusian journalists in partnership with Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several European governments and foundations. It has correspondents in Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and Britain.

SEE ALSO: Belarus's Lukashenka Doubles Down On Fear To Silence Pro-Democracy Opponents

The 66-year-old Lukashenka was officially declared the victor by a landslide in a disputed presidential election last year. That has brought people onto the streets on an almost daily basis since as they demand that the longtime strongman step down and new elections be held.

Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies, and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.

Several protesters have been killed in the violence and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used by security officials against some of those detained.

Lukashenka has denied any wrongdoing with regard to the election and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding new elections.

The European Union, United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the "falsification" of the vote and postelection crackdown.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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