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Ales Byalyatski in court in 2011
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus has urged the Belarusian government to "immediately and unconditionally" release imprisoned rights activist Ales Byalyatski.

Miklos Haraszti said in a statement issued on August 2 that Byalyatski's detention is "a symbol of the repression against human rights defenders."

Byalyatski, who helped found the opposition Popular Front and heads the human rights group, Vyasna (Spring), was sentenced in November 2011 to 4 1/2 years in prison on tax-evasion charges that his supporters say are politically motivated.

The charges stemmed from Byalyatski's alleged use of personal accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for rights activities in Belarus.

Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience and Western leaders have called for his unconditional release.
RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Khadija Ismayilova accepts the 2012 "Courage in Journalism" award from the International Women's Media Foundation in New York in October 2012.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has called on Azerbaijani authorities to investigate a renewed blackmail and intimidation campaign against investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

The call in a press release on August 1 came after the online release of a new video containing intimate and illegally obtained images of Ismayilova, who reports for the Azerbaijani Service of the U.S.-funded broadcaster.

In addition to posting the video, the website also ran a fake interview attributed to a colleague that was meant to discredit the journalist, who was also subjected to similar online abuse last year.

RFE/RL acting President Kevin Close called on the Azerbaijani government "to provide meaningful support and protection to journalists."

Ismayilova's reports have implicated President Ilham Aliyev, who will run for an unprecedented third term in October, in murky financial activities worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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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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