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Belarusian journalist’s arrest sends message: ‘nobody is safe’

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Rachel Rhodes

On Sunday, Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested in Minsk after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko deployed a fighter jet to re-route a commercial plane en route from Greece to Lithuania.  

Valzhyna Mort

Associate Professor of Literatures in English

Valzhyna Mort, professor in Cornell University’s English department, is a poet born in Minsk, Belarus. She authored this piece, “My Country Is Under Attack,” in 2020 in response to protests over the election, widely regarded as illegitimate, of Lukashenko.

Mort says:

The arrest of Roman Protasevich is Lukashenko’s authoritarian showmanship. As long as Lukashenko has Putin’s support, he would be determining his own laws – nationally and internationally – as he relentlessly pursues his opponents.

“Protasevich organized a key media platform for information and communication during the blockade of internet and mass arrests of journalists following the August 2020 election. Protasevich’s arrest – as a result of an operation that involved threating an international flight with a fighter bomber – comes in the same week when the largest independent media source, TUT.BY, got raided and blocked by the government, its executives arrested.

“We see a clear attack on the independent media that sends a message to activists in Belarus and in exile: nobody is safe anywhere. Belarusian activists are enthused by a new wave of international attention but are generally pessimistic about EU’s ability to impose sanction that can truly challenge the financial stability of Lukashenko’s regime.”

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