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BABRUYSK, Belarus -- An opposition activist has disappeared after reporting to police for questioning in eastern Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Police searched Dzmitry Toustsik's dormitory room where he lives with his family in the city of Babruysk and reportedly found illegal drugs on December 5. Toustsik, an opposition United Civic Party (AHP) activist, was then detained at a police station for many hours.

On December 6, Toustsik was summoned to the police station for questioning. But his relatives and colleagues have not heard from him since then.

Police refused to give any information regarding Toustsik's whereabouts to his mother, who suffers from a serious heart condition. Toustsik's wife, Alena Toustsik, and their baby girl are currently in the hospital and were not home when police searched their room.

Alena Toustsik told RFE/RL that her husband called her on December 5 and informed her that police searched their dormitory room and found some dried leaves in a children's book that he thinks they will claim are a drug or an illegal substance.

"[On December 6] they summoned him to the police again and I have not heard from him since," she said. "Police say they do not have him. I do not know what to do. On [December 5] a woman came to visit me in the hospital and said that from now on our family will be included in a registry of families that have violated administrative regulations."

Read more in Belarusian here
Petitions in support of Iranian journalist Mohammad Davari are collected at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 20th Annual International Press Freedom Awards Dinner in New York in 2010. Davari is one of the 42 Iranian journalists cited in the CPJ repor
The Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the number of journalists jailed around the world has increased to its highest level since the mid-1990s and Iran is "the world's worst jailer."

The independent U.S.-based group, which promotes press freedom and the rights of journalists, says in a new report that 42 of the 179 news gatherers that the group counted behind bars are in Iran.

The group says Iran's situation worsened "as authorities kept up a campaign of anti-press intimidation that began after the country’s disputed presidential election more than two years ago."

CPJ says that in Iran "authorities have maintained a revolving cell door since" the June 2009 presidential election, with furloughed journalists forced to post huge bonds, politically pressured, and encouraged to "turn on their colleagues."

“The volume of arrests, interrogations, and people out on bail is enormous,” Omid Memarian, an exiled Iranian journalist, is quoted as saying. “The effect is that many journalists know they should not touch critical subjects. It really affects the way they cover the news because they are under constant fear and intimidation.”

Five international broadcasters -- Voice Of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle of Germany, France's AEF, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide -- issued a joint statement on December 7 accusing Iran of increasing its intimidation of foreign media and accelerating efforts to disrupt satellite broadcasts in Farsi from reaching Iranian audiences. The statement was issued after a meeting of senior executives of the broadcasters in London.

Most Jailed This Century

The group's survey says Eritrea, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Turkey, and Syria also rank among the world's biggest jailers of journalists.

The survey found that at the beginning of this month, governments in the Middle East and North Africa were holding 77 journalists behind bars -- nearly 45 percent of the worldwide total.

The group said the global total of 179 news people imprisoned is the highest since 1996, when it counted 185 jailed journalists.

based on RFE/RL and agency reporting

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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