The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, condemned the arrest of Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut and called the new charges against him for libel of the President politically motivated.
“I call on the Belarusian authorities to clear Poczobut of the charges and release him immediately. Prosecution of journalists for criticizing the head of state has no place in a modern European country. It chills public debate on issues vital for society,” said Mijatović.
“The only fault of Poczobut was that he dared publish his views of important developments in Belarus of indisputable public interest. He is one of few remaining critical voices in the Belarusian media and should be able to continue his important work,” said Mijatović.
“I have repeatedly called on the authorities in Minsk to stop prosecuting media workers for criticizing the authorities, and I have in particular protested last year’s suspended sentence against Andrzej Poczobut for alleged insult of President Aliakksandr Lukashenka.”
Mijatović called on President Lukashenka to use the opportunity of the coming Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus to grant amnesty to all journalists who have been convicted for their professional activity, including Iryna Khalip.
Poczobut, a Hrodna-based correspondent for Polish Gazeta Wyborcza, was arrested in his home yesterday after a search by police. He is charged under article 367-2 of the Criminal Code for his online articles on the death penalty verdicts against Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou for the 2011 terrorist attack in the Minsk metro.
It is not the first time that the journalist has been accused of insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka: last year he stood trial started which was held behind the closed doors. Having spent three months in jail Poczobut was given a suspended sentence of three years of imprisonment.