Belarusian Journalist Poczobut Denied Appeal | Freedom House

Belarusian Journalist Poczobut Denied Appeal

Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist with Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, was denied his appeal on September 20 after being arrested in April 2011 for “defaming” Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenka and sentenced to two years in prison.  Poczobut argued that investigators and prosecutors “violated his rights,” forbidding witnesses and the lawyer he selected from appearing in the courtroom. Poczobut is a Belarusian citizen from Poland, and one of the leaders of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB).  In February 2011, he served a 15-day sentence for participating in protests surrounding Lukashenka’s reelection.  In the past, Poczobut had his accreditation revoked and faced harassment in response to his journalistic activities.

Since protests began following the December 2010 election, Belarusian authorities have continued to crack down on members of the opposition, civil society and journalists, who have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms or have fled the country. On September 20, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay urged Belarus to release all political prisoners and called on the UN to send a rights mission to the country. In July 2011, President Lukashenka proposed a dialogue with the west in exchange for pardoning political prisoners. In June 2011, hundreds were beaten, arrested, and dozens sentenced to prison, including journalists, after participating in virtually silent “clapping protests.” In late May 2011, several opposition leaders, including Andrei Sannikov, Mikalay Statkevich, and Dzmitry Uss, received harsh prison sentences for organizing a large anti-government protest.

Freedom House condemns the use of criminal defamation laws to silence journalists and other opposition voices and calls for the release of Poczobut and other political prisoners in Belarus.

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