The Association of European Journalists deplores and condemns the bringing of criminal libel charges against Andrzej Poczobut, a BAJ member and Belarus correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza, for allegedly insulting the country’s President. Criminal libel laws should be abolished and Mr Poczobut should be freed from prison at once.
We also protest against the trial and conviction of members of the Belarus Association of Journalists on unjustified and malicious charges of organizing of and participating in mass disturbances on 19 December 2010. The AEJ calls on the President and government of Belarus to annul the various jail sentences, suspended sentences and prosecutions against Dzmitry Bandarenka, Aliaksandr Feduta, Iryna Khalip, Natallia Radzina, Pavel Seviarynets and Sergey Vozniak.
Furthermore, the AEJ urgently calls on the Belarus Ministry of Information to drop its punitive and discriminatory threats to close down the independent newspapers Narodnaya Volia and Nasha Niva.
The Belarus authorities should release all political prisoners, end all forms of prosecution and repression of journalists and news media, and undertake reforms in line with advice from the European Union and the Council of Europe and the State’s obligations and commitments under international law.
The AEJ fully supports the determined efforts of the Belarus Association of Journalists in its continuing struggle for free and independent media.
Peter Kramer, Secretary-General of the AEJ
William Horsley, AEJ Media Freedom Representative