Reporters Without Borders is concerned for the safety of Aliaksandr Alesin, a Belarusian journalist, a military affairs specialist and an expert in economics, who disappeared last month and is believed under arrest for alleged spying.
According to information by Charter97.org, the journalist was seized on 28 November by state security (KGB) agents at a cafe in central Minsk and accused of espionage. But the security agency has declined so far to issue anu official statement. They also refused to inform the public about the reason and the place of detention and about the charges brought against the journalist.
“We are deeply concerned by the silence surrounding the disappearance of Aliaksandr Alesin,” said Lucie Morrillon, programme director of Reporters Without Borders. “We call on Belarus authorities, in particular the Committee on State Secrets, to disclose as soon as possible their possible involvement in this disappearance, as well as the possible charges of espionage against Aliaksandr Alesin.”
The editor in chief of Belorusy i Rynok weekly, the daily for which Alesin has worked for nearly 20 years,said that the journalist had not come to the office since 28 November. But the editor made no further comment.
“I am not giving any comments in this situation yet, but the only thing I can say is that Alesin has not been at work in our editorial office for several days,” Viachaslau Khadasouski, editor-in-chief of newspaper ‘Belorusy I Rynok’ (Belarusians and Market), to which Mr Alesin contributes, told Belsat.
According to other sources, Alesin has been out of reach since he vanished. His telephone is turned off. The Belarusain Association of Journalists, a RWB partner organization and winner of the 2004 Sakharov Prize, as well as the Viasna Human Rights Centre, have also expressed their deep concern for Alesin. They published an appeal to authorities to state where he is being held.
“We suppose that the information about detention, arrest, essence of suspicions and charges, the procedural status, the place of detention and other aspects not related to details of criminal investigation, cannot breach secrecy of investigation protected by law and cannot threaten state interests and public order,” says the statement.
Alesin also contributes to BelaPAN news agency and naviny.by and Nasha Niva websites, gives comments to belsat.eu and appears in Belsat TV programs. He is known for his professionalism and for work of high quality.
The journalist’s disappearance coincides with charges against two Lithuanian citizens who are accused of spying for Belarus. A number of Belarusian media raise the possibility that Belarus authorities may be using Alesin as a means of reprisal.
Belarus is ranked 157th of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index.