Belarusian authorities have detained three correspondents from Current Time in the capital, Minsk, just days before the country holds a crucial presidential election.
The three reporters — Iryna Romaliyskaya, Yury Baranyuk, and Ivan Hrebenyuk — were detained on August 7 at a Minsk hotel and taken to a nearby police station.
It was not immediately clear why they were detained.
Belarus Votes For President
Read our coverage as voters in Belarus decide on August 9 whether President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will continue after 26 years in power.
Current Time, a Russian-language TV network led by RFE/RL with cooperation from VOA, had applied for accreditation for the reporters weeks prior to traveling to the country.
But the Belarusian Foreign Ministry had not responded to their applications.
Romaliyskaya and Hrebenyuk are citizens of Ukraine, while Baranyuk is a Russian citizen.
“Our Current Time journalists were detained in the course of professionally carrying out their work covering the Belarusian presidential election,” Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL’s acting president, said in a statement.
“The failure by Belarusian authorities to grant credentials is yet another example of their contempt for the rights of a free press and the right of Belarusians to uncensored information,” she said. “We are outraged by their detention and demand respect for the internationally recognized rights of journalists to do their work.”
Aside from Current Time, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service has several accredited reporters in the country as part of RFE/RL’s coverage of the election.
The vote is shaping up to be among the biggest challenges to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s 26-year rule.
Opposition candidates, including Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, have mustered sizable rallies in cities and towns across the country.
Thousands gathered in a Minsk park on August 6 in support of Tsikhanouskaya, with demonstrators later marching through the city’s streets clapping and chanting “Long live Belarus!” and “Go away!”
The latter chant was an apparent reference to Lukashenka.
Authorities have detained several members of Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign team as well as supporters, accusing them of holding unsanctioned rallies.
Two sound engineers, who played a Soviet-era rock song that was popular around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 at a rally, were detained on August 7 by police and charged with minor hooliganism and disobeying police.
They were sentenced to 10 days in jail.