A collective of human rights organizations, film festivals and organisations have called for the release of Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, the director of the Watch Docs Festival in Belarus, who was arrested on April 5 for her role in organizing an underground photo exhibition celebrating health workers. In the open letter they urge the government of Belarus to respect Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska’s right to freedom of expression and personal freedom. “Hatsura-Yavorska has made essential contributions to Belarusian culture and for the promotion of fundamental values that are universally shared by our global film community, of which Watch Docs Belarus is a member.”
While Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska was released from a detention center in Minsk on April 15, she is still under investigation on charges that remain undetermined. Currently she is banned from leaving Belarus. Prior to her release, her husband Volodymyr Yavorsky was forced to leave the country with their child; he has no right of return for 10 years.
In The Guardian, filmmaker Mark Cousins expressed his support for Hatsura-Yavorska; “I was deeply impressed by how Tatsiana, a humanitarian activist and mother of four, steered her festival through the storm of KGB intervention, censorship and outright banning of films. Audiences were large and hungry for stories and perspectives outwith those of the state media.” He called on other documentary film festivals, film workers and humanitarians to demand Hatsura-Yavorska’s release: “We at the Belfast film festival and Docs Ireland call on the authorities in Belarus to release Hatsura-Yavorskaya. And we ask other documentary film festivals, film workers and humanitarians to do the same. Tag @BelfastFilmFes1 on Twitter and we will retweet to the relevant authorities. Nonfiction cinema is our lingua franca. Those who speak it to governments should be defended.”