Darya Chultsova (l) Katsyaryna Bahvalava (r) during the court hearing in Belarus. (credits: AB / Belsat TV)
“A signal of encouragement” to Belarus

ECPMF

29 July 2021

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The Belarusian journalists Katsyaryna Bahvalava and Darya Chultsova will be awarded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2021

 

Leipzig, 29 July, 2021. The Belarusian TV journalists Katsyaryna Bahvalava and Darya Chultsova will be awarded this year’s Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media of Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. The prize is endowed with 10,000 Euros for each laureate. It is awarded to media professionals who outstandingly promote media freedom and independent reporting and often risk their own well-being for their ambitions.

“With increasing concern, we have been watching how much the Belarusian regime is restricting the freedom of the press for years. Since the 2020 presidential election it has become clear that President Lukashenko and his government can only stay in office by using the toughest interventions in freedom of speech, freedom of the press or freedom of assembly and that they are ready to pull out all the stops to maintain power – even the hijacking of a civilian passenger plane,” Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of Media Foundation explains.

“The jury’s decision to award our media prize to Katsyaryna Bahvalava and Darya Chultsova is to be understood as a signal of encouragement to all media professionals and also to civil society – not only in Belarus – to stand up for freedom of speech and independent reporting. The jury expressly appreciates the commitment of the two young journalists, who by their work drew attention to the fate of Roman Bondarenko, made heard the voice of free reporting in an autocratic regime and, like so many others, now suffer from the regime’s repression”, Seeger continues. “We insistently demand the immediate release from prison of our two award winners and the end of their criminal prosecution.”

The award of the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media usually takes place on 8 October in Leipzig – on the eve of the anniversary of the mass demonstrations against the GDR regime on 9 October, 1989, which were not only decisive for Leipzig. It will be announced in good time in which way and manner this year’s award ceremony will take place.

About the laureates

The 27-year-old TV reporter Katsyaryna Bahvalava (pseudonym: Katsyaryna Andreeva) and her 24-year-old camerawoman Darya Chultsova work for BelSat TV, which is operated from Poland. According to media experts, BelSat TV is one of the few opportunities for people in Belarus to get information regardless of regime. In this way, the sender fills an “information vacuum”. On November 15, 2020, Bahvalava and Chultsova broadcasted a memorial meeting for Roman Bondarenko, who had been killed a few days earlier. Bondarenko was arrested on November 11, 2020 and shortly afterwards he was seriously injured and transferred to a hospital by the district internal affairs department, where he died on   November 12.

 

Bahvalava and Chultsova had broadcasted a live stream of the Bondarenko memorial meeting for more than five hours. Shortly afterwards they were arrested. A Belarusian court later assessed the broadcast as an “act that grossly violated public order”. Bahvalava and Chultsova were sentenced to two years in prison. The appeal against the judgement was dismissed at the end of April, 2021.

Katsyaryna Bahvalava was born on November 2, 1993 in Minsk. She had studied at the Minsk State Linguistic University and then moved to Spain for two years. After her return to Belarus, she worked as a journalist for the Belarus Radio Liberty and the newspaper Narodnaya Volya. She has been with BelSat TV since 2017 and was arrested several times in the course of her work. Darya Chultsova was born on February 20, 1997 in Shklou. She had studied at the State Kuleshov University Mahiljou. While studying she worked for the website Mahiljou Online. After completing her studies in 2019, she joined BelSat TV first as a freelancer, later as a permanent employee.

About the prize

With its Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media, Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig has been honouring journalists, publishers and institutions who are committed to the freedom and future of the media with a high level of personal commitment. The award is also intended to keep alive the memory of the “Peaceful Revolution” in Leipzig in 1989: At that time, the demonstrators demanded “a free press for a free country”.

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