Journalists outraged at jail term for colleague in Mahilyow


Seventeen journalists based in the Mahilyow region and affiliated with the Belarusian Association of Journalists have sent a letter of protest to the local authorities against a jail term imposed on their colleague, Hanna Ilyina, following a "silent" protest in the city in eastern Belarus on July 3.

A district judge in Mahilyow sentenced Ms. Ilyina to six days in jail on Monday, finding her guilty of participation in a mass unauthorized event and disobedience to police officers.

“Hanna Ilyina was performing her duty as a journalist under a contract with the Velcom mobile phone operator,” the colleagues say in the letter. “She had an accreditation card of the company.”

The journalists accuse the police of violating the journalist’s rights that are guaranteed by both national regulations and international treaties to which Belarus is party.

“We would like to note that local journalists have become the target of provocative actions by security agencies in Mahilyow… since March 24, 2011,” they say. “Previously, the Mahilyow authorities were notable for their tolerant attitude to the independent media, enabling Mahilyow to enjoy a solid image of a civilized city where journalists can quite freely cover political, social and cultural events. We are sure that detentions and arrests of journalists tarnish this image.”

The journalists call on the authorities to end their crackdown on the media. “All of us carry press cars when reporting on events, which means that our detentions are a provocation,” they add. //BelaPAN