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Open season declared on Belarus journalists

British actor Jude Law (R) and US actor Kevin Spacey (L) join protesters in a march to campaign for free speech in Belarus, in central London, on March 28, 2011.

There has been no let up in the harassment of journalists that began on the eve of on March 25, which the Belarusian opposition celebrates as Freedom Day. President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s apparently panicked government is deploying all possibly means to silence its critics, with growing success. The country’s independent journalists have more need than ever of support from their colleagues abroad, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has said.

The latest journalist to be arrested is Uladzimir Laptsevich, a reporter for the news agency BelaPAN, who was arrested in the eastern city of Mahilyow on March 25 as he was about to cover an opposition demonstration and was sentenced to seven days in prison. Absurd grounds were again used.

The journalists who were arrested on March 24 were held for three days. One of them, the Russian journalist Aleksandr Lashmankin, learned on his release that his accreditation had been rescinded. “The Belarusian authorities do not seem to want to see journalists like me working here,” he told RSF. Another of the journalists arrested on March 24, Ales Asiptsou, said he intended to appeal against his arrest for “urinating in a public place.” He told BelaPAN: “They have declared open season on journalists and I think we now have to be ready for anything.”

Meanwhile, the persecution of Andrey Pachobut, the correspondent of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, is continuing. After being jailed for 15 days and banned from leaving the country, he is now facing up to two years in prison on charges of insulting the president in articles in Gazeta Wyborcza, on the Belorussky Partizan website and on his blog. He has not been told in what way he insulted the president.

In two separate rulings on March 28 and 29, the Belarusian Supreme Economic Court upheld the warnings that the information ministry sent to two independent news media, Narodnaya Volya and Avtoradio, for interviewing or quoting members of the opposition. The Supreme Economic Court also upheld Avtoradio’s closure.

Date posted: March 31, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 115