IFJ and EFJ Condemn Arrest of Journalist for Libelling Belarus President

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional organisation, the European Federation of Journalists, today condemned the arrest of Andrzey Poczobut, journalist from Hrodna, for repeated libel of President Lukashenka.

Pocsobut already served three months in prison in 2011 while awaiting judgment on earlier charges of libel and insult. Last July the court acquitted him of insult, before finding him guilty of libel and handing down a three year suspended prison term.

Following his arrest on Thursday 21 June, Pocsobut now faces new charges of libelling (repeatedly) the President in articles published by Charter 97 and Belarusian Partisan and faces up to five years imprisonment.

"This has all the hallmarks of state harassment and hounding of a journalist for doing his job and daring to hold the government to account," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Pocsobut should be freed immediately and the charges dropped."

Following the mass public protests against the Presidential elections in December 2010, Pocsobut was also detained for 15 days, investigated, and finally fined for ‘violating the procedure of organising and holding mass events'.

Meanwhile, Pavel Svyardlou, journalist for Euroradio, was also detained on Friday 22 June and faces 15 days administrative detention on charges of ‘petty hooliganism'.  

"Pocsobut and Svyardlou are the latest victims in a growing pattern of persecution of independent voices in Belarus," said Arne König, EFJ President. "This mistreatment must be exposed and condemned by all who value independent journalism and freedom of expression."  

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries