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Embattled Journalist Receives Press Award

Belarus – Journalist Andrey Poczobut speaks on the steps of the court after the verdict, 05Jul2011

Belarus – Journalist Andrey Poczobut speaks on the steps of the court after the verdict, 05Jul2011

A journalist for a top Polish
daily convicted in Belarus of defaming President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has
received a Polish award, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Poland's Zet Radio selected Andrzej Poczobut as the recipient of an award named
after the station's founder, Andrzej Wojciechowski, for his coverage of the
situation in Belarus.

Poczobut, a Polish-Belarusian journalist who writes for "Gazeta Wyborcza," was
not able to attend the award ceremony in Warsaw today as he is not allowed to
leave Belarus. His wife Aksana travelled to the Polish capital to accept it on
his behalf.

Poczobut told RFE/RL that he is very happy to receive the award. He said he
considers the choice of himself as recipient an act of solidarity with all
journalists in Belarus currently battling adversity.

Poczobut added that the jury had to choose the winner from 10 finalists, and it
was decided to choose him as his articles about Belarus were very popular among

The Andrzej Wojciechowski award consists of a statuette and a cash prize of
50,000 Polish zlotys (some $15,000).

An ethnic Pole, Poczobut is a Belarusian citizen and leading member of the
embattled Union of Poles in Belarus, a cultural organization that has been
trying unsuccessfully for several years to regain official registration in

In July, Poczobut was found guilty of defaming Lukashenka and given a
three-year prison term, suspended for two years.

Poczobut's arrest in April sparked anger in Poland, which took over the
European Union's rotating presidency on July 1. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said
in June that Poland would use all the EU levers at its disposal to ensure
Belarus respects human rights.

Reported by RFE/RL's Belarus service and O wire.