The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today appealed to Belarusian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka to stop persecuting media.
«President Lukashenka should cease Belarus’s extremely harsh policy toward media. There is an urgent need for media freedom in Belarus and this freedom can only be achieved if, as a start, all convictions and pending charges against journalists are annulled,» said Mijatović, reiterating the message of her letter to Lukashenkа of May 8, 2012.
In her letter Mijatović referred to the cases of journalists Irina Khalip of Novaya Gazeta and Andrzej Poczobut of Gazeta Wyborcza, sentenced to suspended prison sentences for their criticism of the authorities as well as Natalia Radina of Charter97.org, who had to leave Belarus to avoid prosecution and imprisonment.
«These sentences and charges should be immediately revoked, as they send a clear signal to all media in Belarus that critical voices toward authorities and state policies will not be tolerated by the government. Journalists expressing views different from the government’s live in fear for their safety and that of their families,» she added.
«Public officials should tolerate a higher degree of media criticism than ordinary citizens and allow for free debate on issues of public interest in Belarus and beyond. Otherwise we would only be moving backwards towards more repression and a closed society, » said Mijatović.