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Belarus4 February 2004

Human rights activist fined over Internet articles

Reporters Without Borders protested after journalist and human rights activist Natalya Kaliada, was fined for writing articles on the Internet.

"All Kaliada has done is speak out against repeated human rights violations in Belarus, said Reporters Without Borders secretary general Robert Ménard to justice minister Viktor Golovanov.

"By sentencing her for writing articles on the Internet, the judge, Natalya Vojsechovich sends a disturbing message to human rights defenders and journalists. In a country where the independent press is subjected to constant harassment by the authorities, the Internet provides Belarussians with access to uncensored news and information.

"We therefore strongly condemn this attempt to gag press freedom on the Internet," the international press freedom organisation added.

Kaliada was fined 160 euros on 2 February for publishing articles on the site run by Charter 97, a human rights organisation that is not recognised by the authorities.

The verdict follows an investigation by the attorney general into the legality of news produced by the organisation, at the end of which his deputy concluded that Charter 97’s activities were illegal. The deputy attorney general, Paval Radzivonaw, has been the target of constant criticism from the organisation, which accused him of being one of the main architects of crackdowns on the local media.

Reporters Without Borders recalled that in 2003, the independent press and human rights organisations suffered unprecedented judicial harassment. At least 15 newspapers were closed or prevented from appearing and a number of organisations were also shut down.

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