European Federation of Journalists

Belarus: Free Pavel Mazheyka and the 35 imprisoned journalists

Credits: Nasha Niva

This article was written by Belarusian journalists

The well-known Belarusian journalist and public figure Pavel Mazheika was arrested on August 30, 2022. He was kidnapped just on the street near his house. The security forces detained him very brutally: they put a bag over his head and beat him. Not because he is a dangerous terrorist who poses a threat even with his hands behind his back in handcuffs. But because he is a journalist, and the violence of the security forces and torture in prison have become commonplace today in Belarus.

Now Pavel is behind bars in the pre-trial detention center of Hrodna prison. Correspondence with people is blocked for him, letters in prison are handed over only from relatives, and not all of them. What exactly he is accused of is unknown, the case is kept secret, the lawyer is under a non-disclosure agreement. But it is safe to say that the main reason is that he is an honest and professional journalist. Human rights activists recognized Pavel as a political prisoner, his arrest is politically motivated.

Today at the time of writing 34 media representatives are in prison in Belarus: the best media managers, editors and journalists of the country’s independent media. For the fact that they performed their work professionally, they are accused of extremist activities, terrorism and even treason against the state. For example, media manager Andrei Aliaksandrau and investigative journalist Dzianis Ivashyn were sentenced to 14 years in prison. Journalists Andrei Pachobut and Katsiaryna Andreeva were sentenced to 8 years in prison. Major independent media are recognized as extremist formations in Belarus, some journalists are included in the lists of terrorists along with international terrorists.

Belarusians receive real prison terms for a comment, an interview with independent media, even for a like on social networks under a link to an article. It is practically impossible to work as a journalist inside Belarus, many Belarusian journalists were forced to leave their homes. Those journalists who are in prisons are subjected to torture and pressure. 

We call on our European colleagues to show solidarity, express support for Belarusian journalists in prisons and remind once again that journalism is not a crime.

We, Belarusian independent journalists, ask our European colleagues to print and cut out the figure of Pavel, and then photograph it in recognizable places in your cities. The more cities to join the action of solidarity, the better.

Who is Pavel Mazheyka?

Pavel was born in Hrodna, he is 44 years old, the father of two young children. He is a well-known journalist and a recognized media professional. For 14 years he was the author and presenter of a number of publicistic and historical programs on independent television: for example, “Two for Two”, “Intermarium”, special projects of political debates and others. He was a journalist for one of the first independent newspaper Pahonia, editor of the newspaper The Day, collaborated with the BelaPAN news agency, TVP (Poland), published in Polish and American publications. Honorary member of the writing community of the Belarusian and British PEN centers. 

Pavel is one of the first political prisoners in Belarus: in 2002 he was sentenced to 2 years of “chemistry” for “slandering” the president in an article in “Pahonia”. Pavel was serving his sentence in Zhlobin in an open colony – he worked at a sawmill. 

In addition to journalism, Pavel was engaged in the publication of scientific books on history, was engaged in the promotion of culture. Pavel is a well-known cultural manager, creator of the cultural space “Center of Urban Life” in Hrodna, which played an important role in the cultural and social life of the city. This space brought together creative, active, enterprising people. The Center hosted hundreds of cultural events, scientific conferences, dozens of exhibitions, book presentations, concerts and educational events.

In 2020, the “Center of Urban Life” provided its platform for the work of volunteers who helped Hrodna doctors in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Protective suits and other things needed by doctors were transported here, volunteers gathered here and assembled thousands of protective screens themselves. While the Belarusian authorities denied the existence of the coronavirus and offered Belarusians to be treated with a bath and vodka.

Pavel supported many public initiatives, with the conviction that by creating our own, Belarusian, we ourselves can build the country we dream of. He could have already left Belarus after 2020 and the waves of repression that have not subsided in the country so far. However, he stayed at home.

How to join the campaign

  • Print the visual below, cut out and photograph Pavel’s figure in different cities
  • Stick the visual in the streets
  • Republish the text