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Belarus15 October 2002

Rabochy editor’s appeal rejected

The appeal of Viktor Ivaskevich, editor of the independent newspaper Rabochy, against a prison sentence of two years at hard labour for "insulting" President Alexander Lukashenko was rejected on 15 October. He will now appeal to the supreme court.

16.09.2002 - Third journalist sent to labour camp

Reporters Without Borders said it was "deeply shocked" at today’s sentencing of another Belarus journalist, editor Viktor Ivaskevich of the independent newspaper Rabochy, to imprisonment at hard labour for "insulting" Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Belarus courts have now sent three journalists to labour camps in the past 12 weeks," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard.  "This smacks of what we thought was a bygone era, when anyone who made the slightest criticism of the authorities ended up in the gulag.

"Ivaskevich and the two other journalists recently imprisoned are paying with their freedom the price of simply doing their job in a country where the foundations of democracy have yet to be laid.

"We demand the abolition of articles 367, 368 and 369 of the penal code which threaten press freedom and repeat our request to the Council of Europe that in moves for closer relations with Belarus, clear conditions be imposed concerning freedom of information, especially in the matter of prison terms for defamation."

Ivaskevich was convicted and sentenced by a court in Pervomaisky, Minsk, to two years imprisonment at hard labour for "insulting" President Lukashenko under articles 367, 368/2 and 14/1-2 of the penal code in an article in a special elections issue of Rabochy in the summer of last year, headed "A thief’s place is in prison," referring to Lukasheko.  He has 10 days to file an appeal.

Articles 367, 368 and 369 of the penal code, which call for up to five years imprisonment for "insulting and defaming the president," were recently used to convict Nikolai Markevich (editor) and Pavel Mazheiko (journalist) of the opposition newspaper Pagonya and impose sentences of respectively a year and a year and a half at forced labour, which they began serving at the beginning of this month.

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