April 12, 2024

Press Freedom


Belarus March 6, 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

Your Excellency:

We write to protest the criminal investigation your state prosecutor’s office has launched against the independent weekly, Zgoda , for inciting religious hatred, after the paper re-printed eight of the twelve Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on February 17. The drawings illustrated an article reporting the furor caused in the Muslim world by the cartoons.

Zgoda’s editor in chief, Aleksei Korol, has reported that agents of the Belarusian Security Service (KGB) searched his apartment in Minsk , questioned him and his deputy for two hours, and confiscated the newspaper’s computers and other electronic equipment.

Korol has said he believes your government will use this case as a pretext to close the newspaper, one of your country’s few remaining sources of independent news and opinion. Unlike the state media, Zgoda has covered the presidential election campaign of your rival, Aleksandr Kozulin. And sure enough, the in formation minister, Vladimir Rusakevich, told the news agency, Interfax , later that the ministry plans to suspend Zgoda for three months for re-publishing the cartoons, and said he will go on to seek court approval for the paper’s permanent closure.

Your Excellency, the Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended journalists around the world for more than 65 years, has had all too many occasions to remind you that press freedom is a requisite for membership in the community of nations. We understand the sensitivities that have been offended by the Danish cartoons, but they should not serve as an excuse or pretext for yet another crack-down by your government on what remains of the free media in your country. We urge you to drop the investigation and any charges against Korol, his staff and his newspaper, and to instruct Minister Rusakevich to allow Zgoda to publish in peace.


Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Norman A. Schorr
Freedom of the Press Committee



Mikhail Khvostov

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 Representative

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

Minsk 220002


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