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RFE/RL Reporter Fined For Covering Belarus Independence Day Protest

Mikhal Karnievich, RFE/RL reporter
Mikhal Karnievich, RFE/RL reporter
(Hrodna, Belarus) A RFE/RL correspondent in western Belarus has been found guilty today of taking part in an illegal protest and fined the equivalent of about $200.

Mikhal Karnievich, a correspondent with RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Radio Svaboda, was detained on July 3 while reporting on protest events in Hrodna. According to Karnievich, the testimony against him at today's trial was presented by a policeman whom he had never seen before.

"He wasn't sure if he had detained me, he only said that my face was familiar," Karnievich said after the verdict. "He couldn't recall, however, what I was dressed in or where it was precisely that he had arrested me. Nor could he explain when and how he issued the arrest report." Karnievich is appealing his sentence.

RFE/RL President Steven Korn denounced the trial outcome and the pressure Belarus authorities have placed on journalists who have been covering weekly "silent protests" organized by Revolution Through the Social Network.

"The brutal and systematic targeting of journalists attempting to report on peaceful protests by ordinary citizens is clear evidence of the Belarus government's contempt for the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of its people to free speech, free media and peaceful assembly," Korn said.

At least 15 journalists were detained on July 3, according to Reporters Without Borders, while the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 28 journalists were detained while covering a subsequent protest on July 6.

The sentencing comes the same day RFE/RL published an interview with senior European Union diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, who said that the latest crackdown on protests in Belarus is a sign that the Lukashenka regime is "losing control."