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Roman Protasevich | From teen activist to regime bugbear

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He later labored as a photographer for Belarusian media and was the recipient of a Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship in 2017-2018

Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, who was detained in Belarus after the Ryanair flight he was on was diverted and compelled to land on Sunday, started his digital activism in his teenagers.

Also learn: Belarus scrambles jet to drive airplane to land and arrests opponent, sparking fury

A pupil on the time, he was arrested in 2012 aged simply 17 for operating two teams on the Russian-based social networking website Vkontakte towards Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

One of them was referred to as “We are sick of this Lukashenko” — the previous collective farm supervisor who has dominated Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, a 12 months earlier than Mr. Protasevich was born.

“They hit me in the kidneys and liver,” Mr. Protasevich mentioned on the time.

“I urinated blood for three days afterwards. They threatened to accuse me of unsolved murders.”

During the interrogation, he mentioned, officers from Belarus’s safety service, nonetheless named the KGB as in Soviet occasions, had been demanding his passwords to the web teams.

He later labored as a photographer for Belarusian media and was the recipient of a Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship in 2017-2018 — an award for aspiring unbiased journalists named after the late Czech dissident turned president.

Protasevich left Belarus in 2019 after he began working for the extremely influential pro-opposition Telegram channel Nexta (“Somebody” in Belarusian).

He later turned editor-in-chief on the channel, which at present has greater than 1.2 million subscribers.

The channel had a task in organising the anti-Lukashenko protests by sharing with its followers particulars on assembly occasions and dates.

‘First terrorist journalist’

Living between Poland and Lithuania, each hubs for Belarusian exiles, he has since develop into the editor of the channel BGM — an acronym in Russian which means “Smart Belarus” — which has 260,000 subscribers.

The 26-year-old’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who was detained with him, is a regulation pupil on the European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius.

Mr. Protasevich lined the 2020 presidential election marketing campaign by which opposition challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya took on Mr. Lukashenko.

Unprecedented mass protests broke out after Mr. Lukashenko declared victory as soon as once more and the authorities responded with violence.

Belarus issued a warrant for Mr. Protasevich’s arrest in November over his work for Nexta, declaring that he was “involved in terrorist activity”.

On his Twitter profile, he mockingly describes himself as “history’s first terrorist journalist”. Terror offences can carry the demise penalty in Belarus, which nonetheless carries out capital punishment.

After the airplane was diverted and coming in to land in Minsk on Sunday, passengers overheard him saying that “he was facing the death penalty”.

His newest tweet on May 16 was about photographing Tikhanovskaya’s go to to Athens — the town the place the Ryanair flight left from on its strategy to Vilnius.

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