The Associated Press said on December 23 it will seek to overturn a Belarusian court ruling finding that it damaged the reputation of a dairy company in a story about farmland contaminated by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The article said tests by a Belarusian state laboratory on a sample of milk from a dairy farm showed 10 times the accepted level of a radioactive isotope.
Milkavita, the company that the dairy farm supplies, sued AP's Minsk correspondent, Yuras Karmanau, who wrote the article, saying he had damaged its reputation. The company makes cheese, primarily for export to Russia.
Judge Tatyana Sapega ruled in Milkavita's favor on December 22 and ordered Karmanau to pay court costs.
Ian Phillips, AP's vice president for international news, said the AP stands by Karmanau's reporting and "AP looks forward to vindication on appeal."
The independent Belarusian Association of Journalists said the ruling "puts into jeopardy the very possibility of conducting important journalistic investigations in Belarus."
Chernobyl, a nuclear power plant in Ukraine near the Belarusian border, was the site of a nuclear accident in 1986, with the fallout contaminating much of northern Ukraine and southeastern Belarus.