Vienna, May 27, 2021
by Edward Steen
Following the AEJ’s call for the immediate release of our Belarussian colleague Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, both kidnapped after their civilian flights from Athens was hijacked, the OSCE’s Media Freedom Representative Mrs Teresa Ribeiro issued statements of condemnation and demands for their immediate release over Facebook and Twitter
“The authorities of #Belarus should immediately and unconditionally release the editor of the Telegram channel Belarus, the brain of @belamova Roman Protasevich. His detention is a gross violation of #OSCE obligations to freedom of expression and freedom of the media.”
Roman’s mother Natalia tweeted a desperate plea for international solidarity to save her 26-year-old journalist’s life . “They will kill him…they will kill him” she said. It was clear that his teeth and face had been broken, and there were strangulation marks on the neck.
Everyone including doctors who had examined the videos of his “confession” could see makeup had been used to disguise beatings. “It was obvious he has been tortured,” she told Reuters, calling for international help to save her son, 26. He had been completely exhausted, she said, and persuaded with difficulty by friends to take his first holiday in three years.
“The last hope of getting any sense out of this brigand seems to be US President Biden’s summit with Vladimir Putin,” AEJ Secretary-General Edward Steen commented. (This is scheduled to take place in Geneva on June 15).
Meanwhile, given Lukashenko’s indifference to sanctions, the minimum the EU leaders could do was to demand proper elections, those of August 19 last year having been so blatantly rigged (as the OSCE report published in November showed). “If there is such a Europe-wide demand, at least it will become clear which governments consider fair elections, and a free press, normal and necessary – and which see them as rather optional.”