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Death Threats Against Belarusian Journalist Raise Concern

Belarusian journalist Natallya Radzina (file photo)
Belarusian journalist Natallya Radzina (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concerns over death threats received by a well-known Belarusian journalist based in Poland.

In a statement on July 26, RSF said Natallya Radzina, had received death threats. The group called on the Polish authorities "to take whatever measures are necessary to protect her."

The statement said Radzina had released a message she received on July 22 that said: "Radzina, you slut, we're after you. Start shitting yourself, Nazi trash. You have just a few days left, fifth column bitch. We are already here. Look around you more often."

Radzina is the editor of Charter97, a news website that is critical of the authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Radzina told RSF that she is confident the threats came from Belarus, where her website has been blocked since January but can still be accessed via a mirror site.

"These death threats against a journalist living in exile in an EU country must be taken very seriously," said Pauline Ades-Mevel, the head of RSF's EU-Balkans desk. "We ask the Polish authorities to condemn them publicly, to identify those responsible, and to do whatever is necessary to protect Natallya Radzina and her staff."

Radzina received political asylum in Lithuania in 2011 and has resided in Poland since 2012. Her site, which focuses on human rights and opposition causes, was named after Charter 97 -- a 1997 declaration calling for democracy in Belarus that was signed by journalists, opposition politicians, and rights activists.

The founder of the Charter 97 declaration, journalist Aleh Byabenin, was found hanged in his house near Minsk in September 2010.

Authorities ruled it a suicide, but Byabenin's colleagues have said there was no indication Byabenin was planning to commit suicide and that there were no messages or notes left behind.

Belarus-born journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was a spokesman for the organization behind Charter 97, was killed in a car bombing in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in July 2016.

Rights groups say Lukashenka, who was first elected in 1994, has systematically stifled dissenting voices and held onto power through elections and referendums deemed undemocratic by Western governments.

Poland is ranked 58th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Belarus is ranked 155th.

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