On Thursday, Belarusian state television released a video that appears to show a confession by journalist and dissident Roman Protasevich, arrested in Minsk on 23 May following the hijacking of the Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight ordered by the authoritarian Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. In the video Protasevich says he has organized illegal anti-government protests and praises Lukashenko: according to the journalist’s family, and according to many observers, the “confession” was not spontaneous, but forced by the Belarusian regime.
Among other things, in the video Protasevich says he tried to overthrow the regime, and adds that “he began to understand that he [Lukashenko] he is doing the right thing “; he also says to respect the president “
. At the end of the interview he starts to cry and adds that he hopes that one day he will be able to get married and have a family.
The interviewer, for the record, is Marat Markov, the head of the Belarusian state TV channel ONT and a former member of Lukashenko's administration. Protasevich is also forced to say that he "unquestionably" respects Lukashenko. https://t.co/zv79HyMy9q— Marc Bennetts (@marcbennetts1) June 3, 2021
The video seemed very similar to many others released by authoritarian regimes with dissidents and opponents as protagonists forced to make public confessions of crimes never committed. Furthermore, in the Protasevich case, there seems to be no doubt that the confession was forced, due to the personal history of the journalist and his activities in more recent years.
Protasevich is 26 years old and one of the founders of Nexta Live, a Telegram channel that has become fundamental for the circulation of free information in Belarus; like many journalists, intellectuals and political opponents, since 2019 he has been living abroad – in Lithuania – to escape the repression of the regime. Last fall he was accused by the regime of “acts of terrorism” for helping through Nexta to make possible the huge protests against Lukashenko, who in turn was accused of manipulating last August’s elections to obtain the sixth consecutive presidential term. . If he is found guilty of the charges against him, he could spend up to 15 years in prison; Belarus is the only state in Europe that still admits the death penalty for crimes related to terrorism.
It was the third time that Protasevich had appeared on state television after his arrest: in another interview he had said that it was useless for the opposition to organize other anti-government demonstrations. Among other things, the person who interviewed him on Thursday is not a professional TV host, but Marat Markov, the head of the channel. Have of Belarusian state television, as well as a former member of Lukashenko’s administration.
– Read also: The incredible story of Ryanair’s flight made it deviate from the Belarusian regime