Prominent Belarusian journalist arrested

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The editor of a popular Belarusian media outlet was arrested Wednesday following a raid of his apartment, the latest target in a sweeping crackdown on independent media by the Belarusian authorities.

Siarhei Satsuk, the chief editor of Yezhednevnik, or ej.by, online outlet, was detained after a raid of his apartment on bribery charges that he denied, his brother said. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

The ej.by website, which has an audience of 10,000 readers, was blocked Wednesday.

Satsuk is the 30th journalist, who is currently in custody in Belarus, either awaiting trial or serving a sentence.

“Journalism has become one of the most dangerous professions in Belarus,” Andrei Bastunets, the head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, told The Associated Press. “The situation with freedom of speech in Belarus is the worst in Europe, the authorities are depriving citizens of any alternative information.”

Satsuk’s outlet has actively covered protests, which were ignited by the August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West rejected as rigged. Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who received a sixth term in the vote, responded by unleashing a sweeping crackdown on protesters that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.

Satsuk was briefly arrested in March 2020 on bribery charges linked to an annual rating of businesses published by his outlet, but he was released quickly and the criminal investigation against him was closed soon after.

Earlier this month, his media outlet launched a new project about independent journalists and activists who were branded “extremists” and “terrorists” by Belarusian authorities.

Satsuk’s arrest could be linked to that, or, it could be that “it’s simply his turn,” Satsuk’s brother Alexander told the AP. He said that the authorities confiscated his electronic equipment along with the opposition red-and-white flag.

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