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Belarusian Journalists Awarded EU Rights Prize

14 December 2004 -- The European Union today awarded a human rights prize to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

EU Parliament President Josep Borrel presented the 2004 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the association's chairwoman, Zhanna Litvina, at a parliament meeting in Strasbourg, France.

Borrel said the 50,000 euros ($66,000) prize recognizes professionals who "daily risk their lives to seek out the truth."

Belarusian journalists face both political and economic pressures, including harassment, being beaten, jailed, and in one high-profile case, simply disappearing without a trace.

"Unfortunately, Belarusian authorities have succeeded in creating in our country a closed society," Litvina said. "This society is built on isolation and ignores democratic values. Sadly, I'm forced to note today that the current regime associates its security and stability with the method of total control over the dissemination of information."

Belarusian authorities have closed down some 19 newspapers since the beginning of this year.