Thursday, December 02, 2010

Belarus: Call for next President to respect free expression

Source: International Freedom of Expression eXchange

In Belarus, notoriously known as "Europe's last dictatorship", journalists have been assaulted, opposition activists have disappeared and died in mysterious circumstances and youth leaders have been subjected to mock executions. The country is ranked worse than Iran on press freedom, and worse than Zimbabwe on human rights.

In the run up to the presidential elections on 19 December, Index on Censorship hopes you will sign its Zone of Silence petition for free expression in Belarus.

This year alone, critical journalists have been physically attacked, slapped with criminal defamation suits, interrogated by authorities, and had their homes raided and equipment confiscated, say IFEX members. One journalist and human rights activist, Aleh Byabenin, was found hanged in his country house outside of Minsk on 3 September. Police claim it was a suicide but colleagues say it was a politically motivated killing, just months before the elections.

Déjà-vu, perhaps? A brutal crackdown on the media and political opposition also happened in the run-up to the 2001 and 2006 elections.

According to Index, "there has been little or no political will to put pressure on the regime to uphold international human rights standards." That's why Index is working with civil society groups in Belarus to make the case internationally that more must be done.

i On Global Trends will break for Christmas, Dec 11, 2010 and return Jan 4, 2011