A few undercover guards approached us. They said we should go with them. They did not introduce themselves, they were masked, in black jackets – reported Andrzej Zaucha, a TVN correspondent for “Fakt”, who was arrested on Thursday in Minsk by the Belarusian militia.
Since August 9, when the presidential elections were held in Belarus, Belarusians have been protesting against the result. According to the official result, the incumbent head of state, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, won, but the position and protesters claim that the elections were rigged.
“A few undercover cops came, demanded to turn off the camera”
Andrzej Zaucha was among those detained in Minsk on Thursday. The correspondent of “Facts” TVN reported on TVN24 the moment he was arrested by the police. It happened on the Independence Square in Minsk.
– Several thousand demonstrators gathered in the square. As every evening in Minsk, they came with white, red and white flags to protest, to demand Lukashenka’s departure, to show that the protests continued. At one point, the whole square was surrounded by special militia units. These cordons began to tighten, people were pushed back, divided into groups – said Zaucha.
At this point, he and his operator were “approached by some undercover policemen and asked to turn off the camera.” – They said we should go with them. They didn’t introduce themselves. They were masked and in black jackets. They said that they were police officers, but they did not show any documents, they did not have any badges on them – said Zaucha.
“In a calm atmosphere we were told that our documents would be checked and we would be released”
The undercover police escorted the TVN “Fakty” team to the back of the church on Niepodległości Square and put them on a bus. The correspondent and the operator were transported to the police station.
– There, in a calm atmosphere, we were told that our documents would be checked and we would be released. Indeed it did. After three hours, when the square was empty, we were released. In my case, no protocol was drawn up, there were no pocket searches, no phone searches – explained Zaucha.
Several hundred detainees, including journalists
At least 270 people were arrested during the demonstrations in Minsk during Thursday’s demonstrations in Minsk, the Wiasna human rights center reported. There were two arrests in Minsk – at Wolności Square, where the police mainly caught journalists, and at Independence Square – at least 257 people were detained there.
The Independent Belarusian Association of Journalists BAJ announced on the night of Thursday to Friday that it knew the names of 39 detained journalists, but there could be about 50 of them in total. Formally, as the police argued, reporters were not detained, but only taken to the police station to control documents and legality work in Belarus. However, at least two people – Kaciaryna Andrejewa and Maksim Kalitouski, who worked for Belsat, were to be sent to jail in Akrescina in Minsk.
Among the detained and later released reporters, apart from Andrzej Zaucha from “Fakt” TVN, there were several employees of Belsat television, but also journalists from all independent Belarusian media and a number of foreign titles, including BBC, Reuters, AP, Sputnik, “Komsomolska Pravda” and others.
This group also included the Swedish photojournalist “Dagens Nyheter” Paul Hansen, winner of the World Press Photo. According to the Independent Belarusian Association of Journalists, he was released, but was banned from entering Belarus for five years. He must leave this country on Friday.
Main photo source: TVN24