Belarusian journalist Irina Khalip under house arrest

Monday, March 7, 2011

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

March 7, 2011

Dear Mr. Roman 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 condemns the continued house arrest of journalist Irina Khalip and calls on the Belarusian government to lift all restrictions on her, including those against her freedom of expression and access to information.

Khalip, who works for Novaya Gazeta, was arrested on December 19, 2010, while giving an interview to the Russian radio station Echo Moskvy. She was severely beaten and held in isolation by the Belarusian State Security (KGB) for one month in Minsk. Charged with ‘organizing and participating in mass disorder’, she is currently under house arrest with two KGB agents stationed at her apartment. Khalip has been denied access to the internet, telephone and newspapers, and is restricted to visits from her mother and son.

This is not the first time that Khalip has been targeted for her journalistic work, as she has frequently been detained, subjected to all-night interrogations by police, arrested, beaten and kept under surveillance. The continued intimidation and harassment of Khalip is unacceptable, and reflects the poor conditions for journalists that have led to Belarus’ low ranking of 154 on Reporters Without Borders 2010 Freedom of Expression Index.

CJFE calls on Belarusian authorities to release all restrictions on Khalip, and to guarantee the right of freedom of expression without retaliation for all journalists.

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 Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs