World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Belarus, 6 January 2011

Protest Campaign - Belarus, 6 January 2011

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WAN-IFRA wrote to President Alexander Lukashenko to express serious concern over the recent crackdown against the independent press in Belarus.

His Excellency President Alexander Lukashenko
President of Belarus
Minsk, Belarus

6 January 2011

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at a crackdown on the independent press, including the detention of more than 20 journalists.

According to reports, more than 20 journalists were arrested and many beaten after covering demonstrations in Minsk on December 19 to protest against the results of what the protesters claim is a flawed presidential vote. Over the New Year holidays, police raided the homes of numerous journalists, detaining 'suspects' and seizing computers and other equipment.

Journalists arrested include Irina Khalip and Natalya Radina, who have been indicted on charges of organizing and participating in mass disorder - charges which respectively carry prison terms of up to 15 and eight years. Like many other of their colleagues, Ms Khalip and Ms Radina have been held in a security police isolation unit since their arrest on 20 December. Officials are also reportedly seeking custody of the 3-year-old son of Ms Khalip and former opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov (who is also imprisoned) from his maternal grandparents on the pretext of protecting children in 'problem families'.

Ms Khalip, a local correspondent for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was beaten and forcibly taken by riot police while on the air with the independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy. On the same day, Ms Radina, editor of Charter 97, was beaten and detained when special forces stormed the website's offices and took her and the three volunteers staffing the newsroom.

We respectfully remind you that jailing journalists for carrying out their professional duties violates numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

We respectfully call on you to ensure that Ms Khalip, Ms Radina and all others jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression are immediately released and charges against them dropped. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your government upholds international standards of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum

WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world's newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2011-01-06 01:00

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...