27 March 2008


Photojournalist covering rally brutally beaten, charged; another charged, in jail; various journalists' homes, media outlets searched by KGB

Incident details

Andrej Liankevich, Sjamen Pechanko, Eduard Mielnikau, Anatol Hatochyts, Alena Stsiapanava, Tamara Shchapiotkina, Hienadz Sudnik

(Norwegian PEN/IFEX) - The following is a joint letter from Norwegian PEN and four other organisations:

President Mr. Alyaksandr Lukashenka
220016, ul. Karla Marxa 38, Minsk
Fax: +375 172 26 06 10 / +375 172 22 38 72

The General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Belarus
Mr Miklashevich P.P.
220050 Internacionalnaja 22, Minsk
Tel. +375 17 2264360; 2264358

The Ministry for Internal Affairs
Mr Naimov, V.V
220050 ul. Gorodskoi Val. 4, Minsk

27 March 2008

The Human Rights House Foundation, the Rafto Foundation, Norwegian PEN, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and The Norwegian Union of Journalists condemn the arrests and brutal attacks by riot police of peaceful demonstrators in Minsk. Andrej Liankevich, photojournalist of "Nasha Niva" was brutally beaten and arrested by riot police on 25 March. We especially condemn the arrests of journalists covering the event, and the ongoing harassment of independent media and individual journalists.

On 25 March thousands of Belarusians came to take part in a peaceful demonstration in Minsk dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Belarusian Democratic Republic. The riot police used brutal force against the peaceful participants. More than 100 were detained. Among them were correspondents from Lithuania and citizens from Poland and Ukraine.

The photojournalist Andrej Liankevich's case was submitted to the judge Alena Lapceva of the Zavadskoj district, Minsk. The trial started March 26, but the case was returned to the Police Office (Savecki RUUS) by the judge "for completion of the case with documents stating accusations" on 27 March. Another journalist of "Nasha Niva", Sjamen Pechanko, was arrested and sentenced to 15 days' arrest by the Court of Maskouski City District, Minsk. They were both charged with violating the order against organizing and holding mass events (Art. 23.24 Code of the administrative offences).

The journalists were detained despite the fact that they were covering the rally. We regret that Belarusian state authorities do not recognize the role and the rights of journalists, who report from ongoing events in Belarus. We condemn the practice of the Belarusian judiciary, which do not acquit journalists, when it is obvious that there is no legal basis for the cases.

After the demonstration on 25 March, 75 administrative cases were brought to court against the participants. According to the police reports, they were charged with violating the order against organizing and holding mass events, by participating in a demonstration, not authorized by Minsk authorities. As a result of the trials, 26 people were sentenced to short jail terms of 5-15 days; over 50 people were fined. Twenty people were traumatized with different types of injuries caused by police violence. Activists Andrei Babitski, Zmister Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich and Mikita Shutsiankou were all severely beaten. Even an under-age girl, Alena Makarevich, was severely beaten in the Partyzanski police department.

We are very concerned to learn that today, 27 March, KGB started a countrywide search in the offices and apartments of independent mass media and their journalists. The searches are taking place in the apartments of the journalists Eduard Mielnikau, Anatol Hatochyts (Homiek), Alena Stsiapanava, (Vitsiebsk), Tamara Shchapiotkina (Biaroza), Hienadz Sudnik (Mahileu) as well as in the editorial office of Radio Racyja in Minsk.

The KGB representatives are presenting search orders, signed by legal investigators from Minsk City Public Prosecutor's Office. According to the Belarusian Association of Media, it is stated in the orders that the searches are carried out with regards to breaches of article 367 of Belarus' Criminal Code ("Libel in Relation to the President of Belarus"). This action shows that the Belarusian state does not accept the existence of independent media and civil society and we consider this a grave violation of article 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We fully support the efforts of the Belarusian Association of Journalists protecting journalists and defending the freedom of expression.

We urge Belarusian authorities to stop the current harassment of Belarusian media outlets and journalists.

We ask the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all citizens arrested during the peaceful demonstration.

We also urge the Belarusian authorities to start an independent investigation of the human rights violations and abuses of the police related to the Independence Day 25 of March 2008.


Maria Dahle
Executive Director
Human Rights House

Therese Jebsen
Executive Director
Rafto Foundation

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General
Norwegian PEN

Bjørn Engesland
Secretary General
Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Kjetil Haanes
Vice President
Norwegian Union of Journalists


Norwegian PEN
Wergelandsveien 29
0167 Oslo
pen (@) norskpen.no
Fax:+ 47 22 60 74 51

IFEX members working in this country 1

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