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Journalist is Denied Access to Lawyer

Belarus -- Independent satellite Belsat TV, 19May2011
Belarus -- Independent satellite Belsat TV, 19May2011
The lawyer of jailed Belarusian journalist Alyaksandr Barazenka was not allowed to see his client at a Minsk detention center today, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Barazenka was sentenced to 11 days in jail for filming a public protest staged in front of KGB headquarters in Minsk last Sunday by opposition activist Mikita Kavalenka.

Both Kavalenka and Barazenka were detained in front of KGB headquarters.

Barazenka was filming the action for the independent Belsat TV satellite channel.

The Minsk Central Court ruled that Barazenka is equally responsible for the unsanctioned public action as he has filmed similar gatherings in the past. He was given an 11-day sentence and Kavalenka received 15 days in jail.

Barazenka started a hunger strike to protest his arrest and sentence, saying he was not participating in the protest but was filming it as part of his work as a journalist.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Barazenka's arrest in a statement today and called on Belarusian authorities to immediately release him.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, also condemned Barazenka's arrest, saying the Belarusian government “should allow journalists to cover any political event, whether officially sanctioned or not, for the sake of society’s right to know.”

Belarusian Journalists Association Deputy Chairman Andrey Bastunets told RFE/RL that in 2011 Belarusian authorities arrested at least 100 journalists covering public gatherings and actions.

"We have been trying to persuade the authorities that journalists are doing their professional work while covering the events and gatherings and they have every right to do so," he said. "The arrests of journalists mean a violation of their freedom of expression. We are currently following Alyaksandr's ordeal and fully support him."

Barazenka's lawyer said he needed to see his client in order to discuss his appeal against his sentence and to see his current state of health. But detention center officials did not allow him to visit Barazenka.

RFE/RL's O wire compiled this report.