A court in Gomel, a southeastern city in Belarus, sentenced journalist Larysa Schchyrakova to 3.5 years in prison and a fine of 3,700 rubles (US$1465) on Thursday. She was accused of violating Article 369 and part 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code, which concern public insult to a government official in connection with the performance of their duties and promoting “extremist” activities.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and court documents, Shchiryakova was tried in July after being accused of collecting “false information” and posting it to her listed organization, Gomelskaya Viasna, a human rights group banned by the KGB. She also collected and sent the information to Belsat TV, a Polish independent broadcaster, with the alleged intention to “destabilize Belarus” during its large scale anti-government protests against Lukashenko.
Schchyrakova was detained and had her house searched multiple times while she was working as a freelancer for Belsat TV from 2007 until 2022. She later announced that she was leaving her occupation as a journalist due to constant harassment, fines and detentions from the government. Her son was taken from his school to a youth centre whilst she was detained.
Shchyrakova does not intend to appeal the current conviction and is now working as a photographer documenting Belarusian cultural practices.