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Belarus8 August 2005

Journalists at the centre of diplomatic crisis between Belarus and Poland

Adam Tuchlinski, a Polish news photographer with the weekly Przekroj, was arrested by the Belarusian authorities on 6 August in the western city of Grodno as he was about to board a train to return to Poland.

He was taken to a police station and held for several hours. Officials said Tuchlinski, who was travelling on a tourist visa, did not have the necessary accreditation to work in Belarus. As a result, he is now banned from visiting the country for five years. He returned to Poland after being released.

4 August 2005 Journalist Andrzej Pisalnik sentenced to 10 days in prison


Reporters Without Borders condemned the 10-day prison sentence handed down today by a court in the western district of Lida on Andrzej Pisalnik, the editor of the Belarusian Polish-language weekly Glos znad Niemna and a contributor to the leading Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, for "participating in an illegal demonstration in Shchuchin on 3 July and civil disobedience."

Pisalnik is the second journalist from Belarus’ Polish-speaking minority to receive a prison sentence for such a reason in the past few days. Andrei Pochobut, the editor of the Polish publication Magazyn, received a 15-day prison sentence from the court in Lida on 27 July.

2 August 2005 Another journalist from the Polish community arrested

Andrzej Pisalnik, the editor of Glos znad Niemna, a weekly targeted at Belarus’ Polish minority, was arrested today and taken in an unmarked car to an interior ministry building in the western town of Shchuchin. This was reported by Waclaw Radziwinowicz of Gazeta Wyborcza, the leading Polish daily, who was speaking to him by mobile phone at the moment of his arrest.

When Pisalnik appeared before a Lida district judge yesterday on a charge of taking part in an illegal demonstration on 3 July, the judge said he would grant Pislanik two days of conditional release so that he could find a lawyer and buy medicine for his sick child. But for unclear reasons, he has not yet been released. He shouted to journalists outside the Shchuchin police station that he was being held illegally and that he was going on hunger strike to press for a meeting with the prosecutor.

29 July 2005 Journalists arrested amid tension with Poland

Reporters Without Borders today urged the Belarusian authorities to stop hounding and arresting journalists from the country’s Polish minority as part of the government’s present conflict with neighbouring Poland.

Andrei Pochobut, editor of the Polish-language magazine Magazyn Polski, was given a 15-day prison sentence on 27 July for "taking part in an illegal demonstration" in the western town of Shchuchin on 3 July and for "civil disobedience" in protest against the government taking control of the Union of Poles in Belarus.

Three Polish journalists who had come to attend his trial before the Lida court were arrested the same day. Ten Belarusian and Polish journalists were also arrested by special police at the union’s Grodno office but released two hours later.

"These journalists must not be made to pay for the tension between the two countries," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "We fear that Pochobut’s conviction is a warning to journalists fighting to defend the country’s Polish minority." It called on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to see the journalists still being held were freed at once.

Pochobut and two members of the union, Josef Pazhetski and Mieczyslau Jaskiewicz, were arrested on 26 July as they were driving in Shchuchin, taken to a police station for questioning and tried the next day. Pazhetski and Jaskiewicz were sentenced to 10 days in prison. Pochobut was fined in early July for joining a protest against the distribution of bogus copies of the Polish paper Glos Znad Niemna.

Waclaw Radziwinowicz and Robert Kowalewski, reporters for Poland’s biggest daily paper, Gazeta Wyborcza, were briefly arrested on their way to the trial. Agnieszka Romaszewska, of the Polish TV station TVP1, was also arrested on arrival in Shchuchin by police who said she did not have foreign ministry accreditation.

Special police units seized control of the union offices in Grodno late on 27 July and 10 Belarusian and Polish journalists inside, working for Gazeta Wyborcza, Associated Press, Glos Znad Niemna, Nasha Niva, Pressbol and the website, were arrested and taken to a police station before being freed two hours later without being charged.

The arrests came as tensions rose between Poland and Belarus. Lukashenko has accused the United States of fomenting revolution in Belarus, helped by Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine. Belarus and Poland have expelled three of the other’s diplomats and Poland recalled its ambassador in Belarus on 28 July and called for help from the European Union.

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