Belarusian authorities have arrested and charged a prominent independent editor in their continuing two-year crackdown on independent journalism.
On 20 April Belarusian special forces raided the home of Aksana Kolb, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novy Chas (New Time), in Minsk, and two days later charged her under article 342 of the Belarus criminal code (organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them) and transferred her to prison.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for her immediate release.
Besides reporting on the ongoing situation inside Belarus, independent media there have reported on the war in Ukraine and became a source for information inside Russia, seeing increased interest from inside Russia. A number, including Novy Chas, were blocked there in March 2022.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists – itself shut down in July 2021 – says the Belarus government has detained journalists over 650 times, arrested and sentenced more than 130 media workers on administrative charges, and used violence against 80 journalists. More than 60 media representatives are under criminal prosecution; 26 are behind bars.
Until 2020, Novy Chas was a niche publication targeting the country’s intelligentsia. It was not linked to any political force but was pro-democratic and pro-Belarusian.
During the mass protests in 2020 against the widely-disputed re-election of President Aleksander Lukashenko it more than tripled its print run with its website reaching more than 1 million visitors in September 2020.
Novy Chas was the only national weekly published in the Belarusian language that focused on in-depth socio-political content, history and culture, and investigative journalism – its leading investigative journalist, Dzianis Ivashyn, was jailed in March 2021 and remains in prison.
The Belarus government shut down the Novy Chas weekly paper, blocked its website, and in November 2021 shut down its founder – the Belarusian Language Association, one of Belarus’ oldest NGOs.
Novy Chas continued to appear online – on a new website, social media pages and messenger channels.
You can write to Aksana Kolb by post at:
Pre-trial detention center No. 1. 220030,
vulica Valadarskaha 2,
Independent editor arrested in Belarus
CPJ calls for immediate release of Aksana Kolb
Novy Chas on Ukraine
Novy Chas online
Investigative journalist Dzianis Ivashyn in prison
Voxeurop on Ukraine
Government closes Belarusian Association of Journalists