Belarusian KGB interrogates independent journalists

A number of journalists working for Belsat, a Polish-funded TV station operating in Belarus, risk being sent to prison for up to 15 years as authorities in Minsk continue their crackdown on opposition activists following the presidential elections on 19 December.

Belarusian KGB security services searched the apartment of Kataryna Tkachenko, a journalist working for Belsat, on Thursday evening, confisacting her laptop and mobile SIM card in the process.

The move comes after KGB are reported to believe that Tkachenko was involved in the co-organisation of demonstrations following the presidential elections. Additionally, the offices of Belsat TV were broken into by unknown pertpetrators, believed to be KGB operatives, on 26 December.

Before the raid, Tkachenko received a telephone call from the KGB demanding that she turn herself in for questioning by the authorities. Tkachenko stated that she would only go for questioning after receiving a written notice, adding that a lawyer would be present at the hearing.

Nevertheless, KGB agents arrived at the journalist's home a few hours later, Belsat TV reports.

KGB officer Lieutenant Colonel Zhanievski informed media that the search was conducted after it was revealed that the Belsat offices are situated in an apartment owned by Alesh Mikhalevich, a presidential candidate who was arrested by authorities after the recent elections. Mikhalevich is on the KGB list of people suspected of organising mass protests "of social unrest".

Zhanievski also informed that there are reasons to believe that Belsat journalists took part in the organisation of the protests, which according to Belarusian law may result in prison sentences between 5 and 15 years.

Another Belsat journalist, Mikhal Janchuk has also been called in for questioning by the Belarusian special services.

New Year broadcast

Meanwhile, Poland's Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski and former Deputy Prime Minister and economist, Leszek Balcerowicz are to go on-air and read a letter sent by incarcerated Belarusian opposition activists on Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe.

The idea to read the letter came from journalists working for Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, which has its offices in Prague.

"We will start to read the letter on New Year's Eve, at precisely the same time when [Belarusian president] Lukashenko will be delivering his New Year's address to the nation," Jan Maksymiuk, a journalist working for Radio Svaboda told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Sikorski and Balcerowicz are to be joined by a number of other high-ranking politicians in reading out ten surnames of people who have been arrested by the Belarusian KGB following the unrest seen after the elections.

Other politicians billed to take part in the event are former US president George Bush, former Czech President and opposition activist Vaclav Havel, the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, as well as Russian human rights activists Irena Bonner and Sergei Kovalev. (jb)

Source: PAP/Gazeta Wyborcza


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