Wednesday, March 29, 2006Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is alarmed at the detention of Canadian freelance journalist Frederick Lavoie who was arrested in Belarus while covering a protest against the country's recent presidential elections. Since the elections on March 19 which were considered highly irregular by the international community, 26 reporters have been arrested in Belarus, 17 of whom are still in custody. On the evening of March 24, Mr. Lavoie was in Minsk at the October Square when riot police stormed the area, cracking down on what they called an "illegal gathering." Media reports put the number arrested at 300, including Mr. Lavoie who was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment. Other journalists arrested across the country include: Pavel Sheremet, a journalist with Russian Channel One television network, was handcuffed, blindfolded, and beaten by the police after voicing anti-government opinions in pre-election interviews; Vitali Vasilkov of Deutsche Welle was sentenced to seven days in prison, Weronika Samolinska of the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza was sentenced to 10 days; Alexei Salej of the website Pahonia is awaiting trial; Lorraine Millot, Moscow correspondent of the French daily Libération was arrested on March 24 and released soon after. "The government of Belarus has conducted a campaign to violently silence critics and journalists since the elections," said Arnold Amber, President of CJFE. "With these repressive measures, the government has trampled on the free expression rights of both the citizens of Belarus and the international journalistic community." CJFE urges the Belarusian government to release Frederick Lavoie and all journalists immediately and unconditionally. CJFE joins with the Canadian government in condemning this brutal crackdown on the local and international media in Belarus. CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 or send an e-mail or contact Arnold Amber at (416) 205-7847.
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