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Gedmin Criticizes Belarus Crackdown on Journalists


(PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- March 27, 2008) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jeffrey Gedmin expressed concern today about the ability of independent journalists in Belarus to do their jobs following government raids on the offices of independent broadcasters and the detentions of more than two dozen Belarusian broadcasters.

"It goes without saying that the arbitrary arrests of these journalists and the raiding of their offices fundamentally violates the concept of a free press," said Gedmin. "The Belarusian people deserve to be well-informed; by harassing those who seek to disseminate factual information and ideas, this is not possible. I hope the Belarusian authorities reconsider their antagonism toward independent broadcasters."

The primary targets for the Belarusian Security Service (known as the KGB) were Polish-funded Radio Racja, EU-backed European Radio and the television broadcaster Belsat. The crackdown on international broadcasters comes two days after Belarusian riot police beat and detained dozens of opposition activists in the capital, Minsk, during a rally marking the nation's 90th anniversary of a declaration of independence from Russia.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service broadcasts eight hours of programming a day to Belarus, produced in Prague and the service's Minsk Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Belarusian Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website www.svaboda.org and at www.rferl.org.
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