On December 9, the awards were presented in Washington by the head of the US Global Media Agency ,
, who noted the personal courage of the journalists of the Belarusian service of Radio Svaboda and the extraordinary price they pay for the right to perform their professional duties.
Two of the three laureates are behind bars.
spoke in response :
"I lived in Belarus for 63 years, and now I have to live in Lithuania.
After 9 months in prison, the police took me to the border with Lithuania and forbade me to return to my homeland.
In Belarus, I am included in the list of extremists, as are my colleagues Igor Losik and Andrei Kuznechik, who remain behind bars.
30-year-old Ihar Losik received the longest sentence among us - 15 years of imprisonment.
Andrei Kuznechyk was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Belarusian journalists are avenged for their work not only by long terms.
Their families are also beaten.
Recently, Ihar Losik's wife Daria Losik, who remained in Belarus and demanded her husband's release, was arrested.
She faces 4 years in prison.
Losikov's 4-year-old daughter Pavlina will be without a father and mother.
Andrei Kuznechyk's two small children are waiting for him in Minsk.
Andrei sends them poems from prison, but not all letters are released.
People in Belarus and abroad give us record support.
Even the policemen admit it. In the colony, I was sitting in a penal cell and heard through the door how the guards were talking to each other about me.
One said "he's the one who gets written about a lot on the internet."
The second replied: "Well done, supporting."
The head of the colony in Mogilev shouted at me like this at the first meeting: "So you are a journalist of "Svaboda"?
You will answer me for everything."
It helped that other prisoners try to support political prisoners, treat them with respect.
Now every tenth prisoner in Belarusian prisons is a political prisoner.
And few believe that they are "extremists" or "terrorists".
The position of our Radio also helped to endure.
A letter from the head of Radio Svaboda, Jamie Fly, even reached me in prison.
This letter was read in English by the whole camera!
Such support is extremely necessary there.
And I am personally very pleased that the USAGM [US Global Media Agency] insisted on our release, and as a result I was free."
was arrested on June 25, 2020 and sentenced to 15 years in a high-security prison.
In October 2022, his wife
, who is accused of promoting extremism, was arrested for an interview with the Belsat TV channel.
Igor and Daria have a 4-year-old daughter, Paulina.
was arrested in November 2021 and sentenced to 6 years in a strict regime prison.
was arrested in December 2021 and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
Released in September 2022.
Igor, Andrey and Oleg are members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The Belarusian service of Radio Svaboda received the David Burke award for its work on the 2010 presidential elections.
The journalists then handed over the monetary part of the award to the families of police prisoners in Belarus.