OSCE Media Representative concerned over sentencing of a Belarusian journalist, calls for repealing criminal libel laws
VIENNA, 17 September 2002 -- Europe's top media watchdog, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has expressed his concern today about the sentencing of the Belarusian journalist Viktor Ivashkevich for alleged insult of the country's president.
"I urge the Belarusian authorities to immediately cease its policy of criminal prosecution and intimidation of independent journalists, and to repeal the existing criminal laws on libel and defamation", the OSCE's Media Representative, Freimut Duve, said. "I call upon the authorities to abide by the commitments to freedom of expression and freedom of the media that Belarus has subscribed to as an OSCE participating State".
Mr. Ivashkevich, the editor-in-chief of the Belarusian independent newspaper Rabochy, has been accused of having insulted the Belarusian president during last year’s presidential election campaign. He was sentenced to two years of “restricted freedom” yesterday.
"This is not the first case when journalists in Belarus face criminal charges for allegedly defaming the President", Mr. Duve said. "On 24 June, two journalists from the Grodno-based independent newspaper Pagonya, Nikolai Markevich and Pavel Mozheiko, were convicted to respectively two and two and a half years of “restricted freedom” on the same charge."