Information hero

Andrzej Poczobut

Describing Alexander Lukashenko as a dictator is risky. In the past decade some 10 people have received jail sentences for insulting the Belarussian head of state in this way. However, it is a matter of principle for Andrzej Poczobut to call a spade a spade. Between 2011 and 2012, the life of the Belarussian journalist, an ethnic Pole, has been punctuated by arrests, raids and summonses. The authorities accused him of taking part in pro-democracy protests in December 2010 which he was covering, and he was first fined then imprisoned for two weeks. During questioning he was beaten and his credentials were later seized. However, he continues to criticize the government in his stories for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, as well as on independent Belarussian news sites and in his own blog. He was remanded in custody for three months before being given a suspended three-year prison sentence for defamation in July 2011. He was arrested again the following year for writing columns criticizing the government’s response to the bombing on the Minsk metro. He was cleared of these charges in March 2013 but his suspended sentence remained in effect and he was banned from leaving the country until the sentence was lifted last autumn for “good behaviour”. As a gesture of defiance, the journalist took advantage of this to travel to Warsaw to launch his scathing book about the rise to power and reign of Lukashenko entitled “The Belarus System”.