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New York, May 14, 2024 — Serbian authorities should not extradite Belarusian journalist Andrey Gnyot to face criminal charges in Belarus and release him immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Serbian authorities detained Gnyot upon his arrival in the country on October 30, 2023, based on a September 21 Interpol arrest warrant issued by the Belarusian Interpol bureau, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an advocacy and trade group operating from exile, media reports, and a friend of Gnyot, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

Gnyot has remained in detention in the central prison in the capital, Belgrade, ever since, where his health has deteriorated significantly, according to CPJ’s review of his letter dated May 11, 2024. In the letter, Gnyot said his left foot had been partially paralyzed since April, and he was not receiving appropriate medical treatment.

“I am very worried that he is not receiving medical care,” Gnyot’s friend told CPJ on Tuesday. “Today, he wrote that he again wrote an application to be provided with migraine pills and was ignored,” Gnyot’s friend said. “I see that he writes strangely.”

Belarusian authorities charged Gnyot with tax evasion, Gnyot’s friend told CPJ, adding that if the journalist is extradited to Belarus, he could potentially face additional charges for creating or participating in an extremist group, which carries up to 10 years in prison. A tax evasion charge carries up to seven years imprisonment, according to the Belarusian criminal code.

The final decision on Gnyot’s extradition is expected “anytime,” Gnyot’s friend told CPJ.

“As a European Union candidate state, Serbia should not succumb to transnational repressions on behalf of authoritarian regimes like that of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, a known enemy of a free press,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Serbia should deny Belarus’ request to extradite journalist Andrey Gnyot, immediately release him, and provide him with necessary medical aid. Belarusian authorities should stop their attempts to weaponize Interpol’s wanted person list to retaliate against dissenting voices.”

Gnyot, a filmmaker, collaborated with a range of independent news outlets, including Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, during the 2020 protests demanding President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s resignation after the country’s election. In December 2021, the Belarusian authorities labeled the outlet an “extremist” group.

Belarusian authorities have jailed an increasing number of journalists for their work since the 2020 protests. 

Gnyot is one of the founders of SOS BY, an independent association of Belarusian sportspeople that influenced the cancellation of the 2021 Hockey World Cup in Belarus. The Belarusian authorities later designated SOS BY an “extremist” group.

Gnyot’s defense considers his persecution by the Belarusian authorities as politically motivated, and Gnyot’s friend told CPJ that the whole case was “fake” and “far-fetched.” During an April 1 hearing, Gnyot said that he was persecuted as a journalist who was able to gather around him a group of athletes and create content for them, Gnyot’s friend told CPJ.

“Lethal torture awaits me in Belarus,” Gnyot said in court on February 19, as reported by German public broadcaster DW. “In Belarus, there is no law, no protection, and no independent judiciary. Everyone who opposes the authorities is imprisoned, tortured, and humiliated.”

Reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and news outlets have extensively documented incidents of torture experienced by political prisoners in Belarus.

Gnyot is accused of failing to pay around 300,000 euros (US$323,600) in taxes between 2012 and 2018, according to media reports and Gnyot’s friend.

On November 3, 2023, Gnyot’s lawyer, Vadim Drozdov, filed a request to delete Gnyot’s data with the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files, according to a report by German public broadcaster DW and Gnyot’s friend. In February 2024, Interpol temporarily blocked access to Gnyot’s data in its database, pending verification that Belarusian security forces were complying with Interpol regulations.

In December 2023, the Higher Court in Belgrade ruled that the conditions for Gnyot’s extradition to Belarus were met. On March 12, 2024, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade overturned that decision but did not cancel the extradition and sent the case for review. The process resumed on March 26.

CPJ emailed Interpol, the Serbian Ministry of Interior, and the Belarusian Investigative Committee for comment on Gnyot’s case but did not receive any response.

Belarus was the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 28 journalists behind bars on December 1, 2023, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census. Serbia had no journalists behind bars at the time, except for Gnyot, who was not included in the census due to a lack of information about his journalism.

[Editor’s note: The article was updated to correct the spelling of Gnyot’s name.]

Source of original article: Europe & Central Asia Archives – Committee to Protect Journalists (
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