19 April 2005
Date: 19 April 2005
Source: World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
Person(s): Veronika Cherkasova
Type(s) of violation(s): killed
(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 15 April 2005 WAN press release:
Paris, 15 April 2005
WAN Urges Investigation into Murder in Belarus
The World Association of Newspapers said today that it remains concerned about the investigation into the murder of journalist Veronika Cherkasova in Belarus despite assurances by Belarusian prosecutors that the case is being "carefully examined."
Ms Cherkasova, a journalist with the newspaper Solidarnost, was found stabbed to death in her apartment last October, at a time when she was investigating the alleged sale of arms by Belarus to Iraq. Though an independent investigation concluded that her murder was a professional assassination, the authorities identified her 15-year-old son and chronically ill stepfather as the main suspects in the case and subjected them to months of harassment.
In a letter to President Alexander Lukashenko, WAN asked that the harassment of the family be halted and that "the findings of the independent investigation are properly taken into account, and that the official inquiry is carried out independently and impartially."
In a response from the Prosecutor General's office, senior legal counsellor I.K. Zuy said the case was being conducted "with due sufficiency and promptness." He said no evidence had been found thus far linking the murder to Ms Cherkasova's professional activities, and he denied that the family members were subjected to "inappropriate or proscribed investigating methods."
Both Ms Cherkasova's son and stepfather were subjected to months of intense and intimidating interrogation. Despite this, prosecutors have refused to lift their status as suspects. Mr Cherkasova's son was hospitalised with severe depression and has now left the country.
WAN said it would continue to monitor the case as part of its campaign to ensure that the murders of journalists worldwide are thoroughly investigated and that their killers are brought to justice.
Hundreds of journalists have been killed in the past decade, and in the vast majority of cases the killers walk free. To draw attention to this problem, WAN is focusing its World Press Freedom Day activities on 3 May around the theme, "Impunity: Getting away with murder".
The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation of the world's press, is urging newspapers world-wide to commemorate World Press Freedom Day on 3 May by publishing interviews, articles, infographics, cartoons and advertisements on the theme of impunity which are available from WAN at http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org.
WAN defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.