CJFE encouraged by the lifting of Iryna Khalip's sentence

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mr. Roman Sobolev,
Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to Canada
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus
130 Albert Street, Suite 600
Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4

Dear Mr. Sobolev,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is encouraged by the recent lifting of Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip’s two-year sentence for “participation in mass disturbances.”

Khalip has been a vocal critic of President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration and was sentenced to two years of suspended imprisonment for her participation in December 2010 demonstrations in Minsk. The decision to lift her sentence represents a positive stride towards press freedom in Belarus.

CJFE condemns the targeting of journalists or activists who exercise their rights to free speech and assembly, and thus celebrates Khalip’s release. However, CJFE remains concerned by the current case against photojournalists and Belarus Press Photo organizers Julia Darashkevich and Vadzim Zamirouski; Darashkevich and Zamirouski were summoned to court in April 2013 after the Belarusian KGB deemed images from the 2011 photo exhibit “extremist” and “deliberately perverted.”

CJFE calls on Belarusian authorities to cease persecution of these photojournalists, and to guarantee the right to freedom of expression without fear of retribution for all journalists in Belarus.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. John C. Sloan, Canadian Ambassador to the Embassy of Canada in Moscow
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs