Over the past few months, Belarus’ leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has gone to extraordinary measures to cling to power. This has included the recent, alleged, state-sanctioned hijacking of a passenger plane. We believe that the horrible incident of the arrest of Mr. Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, is a shameful assault on both political dissent and freedom of the press.
Independent media is an essential pillar supporting the rule of law, and a vital component of a democratic society. The functions of the press are to provide a platform for the expression of views by the public and ensure the continued development of democratic governance.
For months, the Belarusian people have made their voices heard — demanding democracy, respect for human dignity, and the preservation of fundamental freedoms. Our head of SFL in Belarus, Piotr Markiełaŭ, was one of them. He campaigned for a free Belarus for years and was arrested four times doing so under the current regime.
Being arrested while demanding the release of political prisoners, and again while protesting election fraud, has forced Piotr to pay many fines and sacrifice over a month cumulatively in prison. But he’s undeterred.
“Either you live in Belarus and do something against the regime or you leave. If you just live in Belarus and do nothing, you support the regime by paying taxes, fees, and fines. You go to the supermarkets, to the restaurants, and to other businesses that are all owned by Lukashenko’s friends. With this, you indirectly support his regime. I believe that if you live in Belarus and do nothing, you are a supporter of the regime.” — Piotr Markiełaŭ.
After Belarus diverted a Ryanair plane, flight 4978 from Athens, Greece, the international community was quick to impose new sanctions on Minsk.
“Lukashenko is propagating terror in Belarus and abroad. I think it’s great that the international community has made not just strong statements but took real action. Lukashenko and his regime have to understand this will have severe consequences. They might not necessarily lead to a quick change in the country, but these measures are imperative.” — Piotr Markiełaŭ.
The Students For Liberty community condemns the Lukashenko regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists. We stand with the Belarusian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic, and prosperous future and support their call for the regime to respect their fundamental freedoms.
Students For Liberty joins countries and organizations around the world in calling for Mr. Pratasevich’s release, as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who are being unjustly detained by the Lukashenko regime.
Students For Liberty will continue to stand with the people of Belarus in their struggle.
Learn more about the current situation in Belarus and what led to it in our Learn Liberty documentary, Belarus Dictatorship, Explained.
Featured photo: Originally published by @belamova.