Brussels (Brussels Morning) More than 245 people were arrested in Belarus on Saturday as police appeared in force in Minsk, working to prevent planned protests that had been called for by the opposition leaders on Thursday, Al Jazeera reported.
At least five journalists who were covering the protest were arrested as well, among them Deutsche Welle reporter Nicholas Connoly, a German citizen holding press accreditation in Belarus. Connoly was detained during filming of the protest, the second time he had been detained in less than a week.
“I’m fine,” Connoly said after his release. “Compared to the local Belarusian journalists, I’m in a very privileged position, having my media company behind me, having the German Embassy on my side.”
The editor of the Belarus independent news outlet Nasha Niva, Yahor Martsinovich was also arrested on Saturday, along with photographer Nadia Buzhan. In a separate incident, two editors at the opposition news outlet TUT.by were arrested. Earlier this month, Belarus jailed a TUT.by journalist for six months for publishing leaked medical records showing that the police lied in their report on the death of a protester they had arrested.
Last month, two Belarus journalists working for a Polish-based TV channel were sentenced to two years in prison for filming the public protests. According to independent human rights groups and local media, more than 33,000 Belarus citizens have been detained so far for participating in the protests.
The EU does not recognise Belarus President Lukashenko as legitimate, claiming the August elections were neither free nor fair. Lukashenko has clamped down hard on all opposition and critical voices, as well as on the public protests against his rule. Backed by Moscow, financially and politically, Lukashenko has remained in power in Belarus since 1994.
Leaders of the opposition’s Belarus Coordination Council, recognised by the EU as interim representatives of the country’s citizens, have either been arrested or forced to flee the country following the August elections.