Press watchdog the International Press Institute (IPI), and its affiliate organisation, the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), are alarmed that dozens of arrrested journalists remain in prison since December 's election.
Vienna, 3 Jan. (AKI) - Press watchdog the International Press Institute (IPI), and its affiliate organisation, the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), are alarmed that dozens of arrrested journalists remain in prison. Some of of journalists are reportedly being held in KGB investigation 'wards' after they were arrested in a brutal police crackdown on demonstrations that followed the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko on 19 December 2010.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), 24 journalists were arrested in the crackdown, and 21 were physically assaulted.
IPI press freedom manager Anthony Mills said: "We urge the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all of the journalists and to transparently investigate assaults committed against them.
"Press freedom is a fundamental human right anywhere in the world, and journalists should be able to do their work without fear of arrest, assault and imprisonment."
A number of the arrested journalists have already been sentenced to up to two weeks' detention. Others remain "under investigation" - some of them in the "KGB ward" of a Belarus prison, IPI and SEEMO said, citing unnamed sources.
Since the crackdown, there have also been raids on Belarusian media critical of the government and equipment has been confiscated, according to the independent website charter97.org.
Among those journalists arrested were Iryna Khalip, a correspondent for the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta and a BAJ member. Earlier this month, Khalip received the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism.
Oliver Vujovic, Secretary General of the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), said: "We are alarmed at the arrests and jail sentences handed down to journalists.
"In particular, we are concerned that Natalya Radina, the editor of the website Charter 97, and Irina Khalip, correspondent for the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, remain in detention, at the Minsk detention facility of the Belarusian police."
Vujovic added: "We are disturbed by the fact that Khalip was forcibly taken by police while on the air with the radio station Echo Moskvy on 20 December 2010. Her husband, presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, was also arrested. For us, it is important that in Belorussia journalists be able to work independently, professionally and freely, like in other countries."
SEEMO secretary general Oliver Vujovic and Mills said they were prepared to travel to Minsk and meet journalists and authorities to discuss events since the election.