Belarusian authorities have raided the headquarters of an independent newspaper and taken into custody three of its journalists as part of a continuing crackdown on media outlets and civil society activists.
Alyaksandr Mantsevich, the editor of the Regionalnaya gazeta (Regional Newspaper), and journalists Zoya Khrutskaya and Nasta Utkina were detained on July 19, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAZh) said.
The three were detained after a search of the newspaper’s office in Maladzyechna, 80 kilometers northeast of the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
Belarus has been mired in turmoil since the disputed presidential election that gave authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka his sixth consecutive term in power.
The West, which has refused to recognize the official results of the vote and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader, has imposed several rounds of sanctions against the 66-year-old, some of his family members, other senior officials, and on key economic sectors.
Lukashenka has since put down street protests and dissent over the vote with sometimes lethal force, jailing thousands of people and forcing most opposition leaders who haven’t been imprisoned to leave the country.
In recent weeks, authorities have focused on independent media outlets and journalists.
As many as 64 searches have been conducted over the last 10 days, the BAZh said in a statement, adding that the number of journalists who are now in custody had risen to 32. They are either awaiting trial or serving their sentences.