European Federation of Journalists

Belarus: journalists sentenced to 12 years in prison

Credits: Marina Zolotova, editor-in-chief of news portal, on trial over alleged "unauthorised access" to information from state-run BelTA news agency, smiles after hearing her sentence at a court in Minsk on March 4, 2019. Sergei GAPON / AFP

Today Minsk City Court sentenced the editor-in-chief of the portal, Marina Zolotova, and general director Lyudmila Chekina to 12 years behind bars. is the country’s largest independent news site, which was forced to shutter after historic demonstrations against Alexander Lukashenko. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) in condemning another shameful verdict. We demand their immediate release.

The women faced a raft of charges including tax evasion and “incitement to hatred”. Due to the extreme secrecy of the proceedings, it was not known until the end what conditions were required by the prosecutor’s office.’s offices were raided in May 2021 and declared an “extremist organisation” in 2022. Zolotova and Chekina were both detained in May 2021 alongside a dozen colleagues. Their homes were raided as well.

“The case against TUT.BY and the conviction of its employees is cruel revenge for the truth that TUT.BY delivered to millions of people,” said the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

“We denounce once again a court decision based on unfounded accusations, used as a pretext to silence dissent. Even from a distance, we keep watching these travesty of justice for the world to see. Journalism is not a crime,” said EFJ President Maja Sever.

According to BAJ monitoring, there are 36 journalists behind bars in Belarus. And more than 400 journalists have been forced to leave their country as a result of repression by the authorities.