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Belarus March 30, 2006
H.E. Aleksandr G. Lukashenko
Administration of the President
Minsk 220030 K Marx Street, 38
Republic of Belarus
Fax: (011.375.17.2) 26-10-06
For the third time in a month, we write to protest the continuing onslaught on press freedom by your government.
In conjunction with your brutal repression of political criticism of your contested victory in the recent presidential election, abuse of the media in Belarus has risen to world-class status, and we hope to persuade you that this policy is neither to your country’s credit nor in its practical interests.
To quote the Committee to Protect Journalists, ” More than two dozen domestic and foreign journalists are now jailed in Belarus . . . as Belarusian authorities continued to crack down on journalists covering the aftermath of the flawed March 19 presidential vote.”
An early victim of the repression was the famed Russian journalist, Pavel Sheremet, of the Channel One television network, an ethnic Belarusian who was visiting relatives in Minsk and not covering the election. He was accosted by five plainclothes officers who pushed him into a van and beat him, demanding: “What are you writing! What are you saying!” Sheremet was treated in a local hospital and has been released by the police, but he believes his abuse was triggered by his previous criticism of your government.
In addition, the targeted journalists include Aleksandr Podrabinek, correspondent for the Russian human rights information agency, Prima-News, sentenced to 10 days for hooliganism; Weronika Samolinska, reporter for the Polish daily, Gazeta Wyborcza , given 10 days for participating in an illegal rally; Alyaksei Salei, a correspondent for the Grodno-based news Web site, Pagonya , sentenced to six days in jail for hooliganism; freelance Belarusian journalist Vadim Kaznacheyeu, given 10 days for participating in an illegal rally and uttering anti-state slogans; Frederick Lavoie, a reporter for the Montreal-based newspaper, La Presse , who was arrested while covering a protest in October Square on Friday and sentenced to 15 days in jail; Freelance Belarusian journalist, Tatyana Vanina, sentenced to 10 days in jail on unspecified charges; freelance Belarusian journalist, Svetlana Stankevich, given 8 days in jail on unspecified charges; Belarusian journalist, Darya Kostenko, correspondent for the magazine, Asveta and Adukatsyya, given 10 days in jail on unspecified charges; Russian journalists. Oleg Kozlovsky and Eduard Glezin, both with the newspaper, Pravoye Delo, sentenced to 15 days in jail each on unspecified charges; Belarusian journalist, Tatyana Snitko, reporter for the newspaper, Nasha Niva, fined 930,000 Belarusian rubles for participating in an illegal rally; and Georgian Public Broadcasting reporter, Nino Giorgobiani, sentenced to 5 days, and cameraman, Giorgi Laghidze, imprisoned for 15 days, for hooliganism and participating in an illegal rally.
Your Excellency, such treatment of journalists trying to do their jobs will be read in most of the civilized world as an attempt to deny or devalue facts by shooting the messengers who relay them. If Belarus ever wants to be accepted in the community of nations, it will reverse its policy toward the independent media, drop all charges against these journalists, and assert a new policy of tolerance for dissent and unconstrained freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.
Norman A. Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
Ambassador of Belarus to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20009
Fax: (202) 986-1805
Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus
to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York , NY 10021
Fax: (212) 734-4810
George A. Krol
U.S. Ambassador to Belarus
Embassy of the United States of America
46, Starovilenskaya Street
Fax: (011.375.17) 234-7853
Mr. Victor Cole
International League for Human Rights
823 United Nations Plaza
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 661-0416