Journalist Irina Khalip handed two-year sentence

Tuesday, May 17, 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

May 17, 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 conviction of journalist Irina Khalip on charges of organizing and participating in mass disorder. She was originally arrested on December 19, 2010, as a result of her reporting on demonstrations connected to the Belarusian presidential election. Ms. Khalip has maintained that she attended the demonstrations as a journalist, and not as an activist.

Leading up to the trial, Ms. Khalip, who works for Novaya Gazeta, had been held under strict house arrest and denied access to the internet, telephone and newspapers. On May 16, 2011, she was handed a two-year suspended sentence. While Ms. Khalip is currently free, she has had travel restrictions placed on her and she faces arrest and imprisonment if she is found to have broken any laws in the next 24 months.

Ms. Khalip has previously been targeted for her journalistic work, including frequent detentions, all-night interrogations by police, arrests and physical abuse. The continued intimidation and harassment of Ms. Khalip is unacceptable. In order to exercise their right to free expression, it is imperative that members of the media are able to conduct their work without restrictions or fear of reprisal.

CJFE urges Belarusian authorities to reconsider the charges against Irina Khalip and to allow her to do her work as a journalist in safety and without reprisal. CJFE calls upon the Belarusian government to uphold the rights of all journalists, and to ensure that members of the media are allowed to report freely in Belarus.

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

Yours Sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Daniel Costello, Canadian Ambassador to the Republic of Poland
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada