Prisoner of Conscience: Ksenia Lutskina, Belarus
Ksenia Lutskina was working for the state-owned broadcaster when mass protests erupted in 2020 in Belarus, demanding the resignation of longtime authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Spurred on by this rallying cry for freedom, she left Belteleradio and joined the anti-government rallies. Her particular beef was the state’s brutal repression of media freedom and independent journalism. She made plans to create an independent media outlet over the next year with some journalist colleagues who had also resigned.
However, their plans were abruptly aborted when in December 2020 police officers arrested Lutskina, searched her apartment, and confiscated her laptop and phone. That same day, other members of Press Club Belarus, a local educational and media organization that she worked for, were also detained.
Local prosecutors accused Lutskina of tax evasion related to her work for this non-profit organization. Those charges were later dismissed, according to media reports. However, in the summer of 2020 Lutskina was accused of conspiring to “seize state power”. Unlike the members of Press Club Belarus who had asked for a presidential pardon, this journalist refused to ask for one and confess to a crime she did not commit. In September a Belarusian court sentenced her to eight years in prison for destabilizing the economic and political situation in the country.
“The harsh verdict against former state TV journalist Ksenia Lutskina shows the ruthlessness of the Belarusian authorities toward those who reported on the nationwide crackdown following the 2020 anti-government protests.
“The harsh verdict against former state TV journalist Ksenia Lutskina shows the ruthlessness of the Belarusian authorities toward those who reported on the nationwide crackdown following the 2020 anti-government protests,” said Gulnoza Said, coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Europe and Central Asia program, following the court’s decision. “Belarusian authorities must release Lutskina, along with all other jailed members of the press, and let the media work freely.”
Since her imprisonment, Lutskina’s health has been deteriorating, according to her father. She suffers from painful headaches caused by a brain tumor.
Despite the protests of both Belarusian and international media watchdogs and calls to be freed, Lutskina is still in prison. Her defense team plans to appeal the verdict.
Sadly, Lutskina’s plight is not unique. Since the protests in 2020, independent journalists are a constant target of persecution by Belarusian authorities.
Disclaimer: As of December 12, 2022, research shows that Ksenia Lutskina is still in custody, serving her sentence.
Prisoners of Conscience from East and Southeast Europe
We feature select few prisoners of conscience out of the many in East and Southeast Europe. One political prisoner is one too many.
Find out who the other political prisoners are #PrisonersofConscience #FreeThemAll and in the special Focus on our website.