2 Belarusian journalists sent to prison for covering protest

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – A court in Belarus on Thursday sent two female journalists to prison for years on charges of violating public order after they covered a protest against the nation’s authoritarian president.

The court in the Belarusian capital of Minsk handed two-year sentences to Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Daria Chultsova of the Belsat TV channel. They were arrested in November while doing live coverage of a protest in Minsk and charged with “organizing actions rudely violating public order,” accusations they have denied.

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus has called for their release and is urging Belarusian authorities to stop prosecuting journalists for doing their jobs.

Belarus has been rocked by protests after official results from the Aug. 9 presidential election handed President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office by a landslide. The opposition and some poll workers have said the election was rigged.

Authorities in the Eastern European nation have responded with a sweeping crackdown on the demonstrations, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. According to human rights advocates, more than 30,000 people have been detained since the protests began, and thousands were brutally beaten.

The United States and the European Union have responded to the Belarus election and the crackdown by introducing sanctions against Belarusian officials.

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