The SoE has signed an open letter to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to organise the immediate release of Mr Aliaksandrau and his partner Irina Zlobina. The couple were arrested by the Belarusian authorities on January 12 and taken to separate jails, where they remain in pre-trial detention.
Andrei and Irina have been charged with organising and supporting protests against the President Lukashenko, who was condemned by governments and citizens around the world accused rigging of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus.
The letter has also been signed by Index on Censorship and the Commonwealth Media Trust.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society said the arrest of Mr Aliaksandrau and his partner Irina was totally unacceptable and should be reversed immediately.
“We must not allow regimes such as the one President Lukashenko heads to believe they can arrest, harass and persecute journalists and not face the consequences of world-wide condemnation.
“No journalist should face arrest for simply doing their job. Journalism is not and should never be seen as a crime. We urge President Lukashenko to act now.”
The letter states:
“While we refuse to accept that being involved in protest is a crime, this is not why Andrei and Irina were arrested. They were targeted for the crime of reporting truthfully and fairly on the situation in their country, in the most blatant manifestation of Lukashenko’s crackdown on the free media.
“Andrei and Irina were arrested because the regime will not tolerate truthful and fair reporting on the situation in Belarus. As we have seen from the US and the Philippines, to recent unrest in Belarus’s neighbour Russia, what despots fear most is the truth.
“Andrei’s work with independent news agency BelaPan and his own publication Journal.by, as well as his track record promoting and defending free media worldwide with organisations including Index on Censorship, Article 19 and Civic Solidarity Platform, demonstrates exactly why the regime has chosen to pursue him and his partner.
“As reporters, editors and writers, we are committed to telling the truth about the world as we see it – a value shared by Andrei, Irina, and the many media workers in Belarus who are now caught in Lukashenko’s vengeful grip.
“The last dictator in Europe believes that he has weathered the storm of protest against his fraudulent election claims, and now he is out to settle scores against those he believes have hurt him most – the people who want to serve their fellow citizens by giving an honest account of what is happening in their country.
“The international community, and the journalistic community in particular, has a duty to call for the immediate release of Andrei Aliaksandrau and Irina Zlobina, and for an immediate end to the suppression of journalists and the free media in Belarus.”
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