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Opposition channel Belsat TV raided in Belarus
Opposition channel Belsat TV raided in Belarus

Founded in 2007, Belsat is backed by Poland, Sweden, the United States, Lithuania and the European Commission.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Belarus authorities on Friday raided the Minsk offices of opposition channel Belsat TV, days after they arrested more than 100 people, including journalists, over a protest against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belsat journalist Ales Zalevski confirmed that the police had searched the TV channel's offices, with Belsat director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Gusy telling Radio Free Europe (RFE) that nine computers had been seized.

"Obviously it complicates our work," she told RFE.

The Warsaw-based Belsat TV, the only independent station broadcasting uncensored programmes in Belarusian, operates in Belarus without government authorisation.

According to the Belarus Association of Journalists, the raid was the result of a complaint "by a businessman on the use of the name, because there's a company called Belsatplious in Minsk."

The association gave no further details, but Romaszewska-Gusy said "this was just an excuse". In 2014, Belarus had told the company to stop using the name Belsat inside the country.

Belsat TV, whose offices were similarly raided in December 2010 following Lukashenko's disputed re-election, had its journalists' camera smashed at the protest, the press association said.

The latest in a series of rallies against Lukashenko's authoritarian regime, scores of people turned up in Minsk Saturday to oppose a controversial new tax on people working less than six months in a year as the country suffers an economic slump.

Police detained more than 1,000 people, according to the Viasna rights group, which also saw its offices raided and over 50 people detained for several hours.

It was the largest protest since the mass demonstrations that followed Lukashenko's re-election nearly seven years ago.

Belsat journalists Ales Borozenko and Ales Lioubentchouka were among those arrested, with Borozenko getting a 15-day jail sentence.

Zalevski, who said police had "seized everything" from his office, said Lioubentchouka is due to appear in court on Monday.

The European Commission called for all detained protesters to be "immediately released" by the authorities.

In mid-March, a Belsat journalist was ordered to pay about 340 euros for covering a protest in the eastern city of Orsha.

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and was dubbed by the US as Europe's last dictator, cracked down on the opposition following his re-election, which resulted in sanctions imposed by the European Union.

Most of them were lifted last year after the strongman released political prisoners and took other steps to appease the West.


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