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The East: Writers' Group Asks Governments To Protect Journalists

  • Stuart Parrott



London, 24 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The worldwide writers' organization, International Pen, has called on the governments of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan to safeguard the rights of journalists.

Letters of appeal have been sent to the four governments by Pen's Writers in Prison Committee or from the International President and Secretary of the London-based organization which seeks to protect writers from the threat of imprisonment, persecution and censorship.

The appeal to the Belarus Government deals with the case of journalist Pavel Sheremet. The case was raised at the 64th International Pen Congress in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh in August.

The PEN congress passed a resolution "expressing alarm about the continuing decline of the situation of journalists" in Belarus. The resolution was prompted by reports of arrests of several journalists in the former Soviet republic.

Sheremet was the Minsk bureau chief of the ORT Russian television station. A Belarusian citizen, he had been arrested in July. Several other ORT journalists, including some Russian citizens, were subsequently detained as well but were released following protests by the Russian government. A committee statement says, "There were deep concerns that the journalists may have been subjected to ill-treatment."

The Writers in Prison Committee says Sheremet has only recently been released from prison but still faces trial on charges of border infringement "which are thought to in fact be in retaliation for his criticism of the Belarus authorities."

In a separate letter of appeal, Pen has called on the Russian government to investigate the murder of journalist Valery Krivosheyev.

And an appeal sent to the Ukraine government expresses alarm at the murder of editor Boris Derevyanko, said to be the third journalist to die this year, alongside increased attacks against other members of the media.

The appeal sent to the Kyrgyzstan government protests judicial proceedings against journalists Zamira Sydykova, Aleksandr Alyanchikov and Rysbek Omurzakov.

The Edinburgh congress, attended by well-known writers from around the world, passed 17 resolutions on the plight of writers in Turkey, China, Iran, Nigeria and a number of other countries.
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