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EU Lawmakers Deplore Harassment Of Independent Belarusian Media

People wave old Belarusian republic flags during a rally commemorating the 1918 declaration of independence from Russia in Minsk on March 25.

BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a resolution deploring the harassment of independent media before and after the February 2018 local elections in Belarus.

The resolution, passed on April 19 in Brussels, also urges the full rehabilitation of all former political prisoners and complete restoration of their civil and political rights.

"The European Parliament urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the blockage imposed on the leading independent news website, to abandon the amendments to the Law on the Media, which, if adopted, would threaten freedom of expression, and to end the persecution of independent bloggers for practicing free expression," said the resolution, backed by all major political groups in the European Parliament.

EU lawmakers also called for the release of Mikhail Zhamchuzhny and Zmitser Paliyenka, two civil-society activists currently detained for political reasons.

The resolution also "regrets the Belarusian authorities' disproportionate reaction to opposition activists' efforts to organize an unauthorized rally on March 25, 2018, to mark the 100th anniversary of Belarus' declaration of independence in 1918, reaction which resulted in dozens of arrests, including of opposition leaders and former presidential candidates Mikalay Statkevich and Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu."