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Leading Independent Media In Belarus Publish Blank Pages In Solidarity With Jailed Journalists

Some media in Belarus chose not to display photos on their front pages.
Some media in Belarus chose not to display photos on their front pages.

MINSK -- Leading independent media outlets in Belarus have published blank front pages with the words, “There should have been a photo here," in solidarity with two photographers -- including one from RFE/RL -- who have been jailed over their coverage of a mass protest in Minsk.

The blank pages published or posted on websites on September 17 noted that Alyaksandr Vasyukovich and Uladz Hrydzin were sentenced to 11 days in jail "for taking part in an unsanctioned action."

Hrydzin, who had been an RFE/RL correspondent in Minsk before he was stripped of his accreditation on August 29, and Vasyukovich, a freelance photojournalist working for various media, were found guilty of violating Belarus's law on mass gatherings on September 16.

A third man and friend of the two journalists, Yahor Kalyahin, was fined 540 rubles ($210) by the Frunze district court on the same charge.

The three were detained in a Minsk bar by a group of people wearing balaclavas on September 13, the day when tens of thousands rallied in the Belarusian capital to protest against official results from an August 9 presidential election that handed victory to the incumbent, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The Interior Ministry reported more than 400 arrests on that day.

“RFE/RL deplores the jail sentences imposed on journalists Uladz Hrydzin and Alyaksandr Vasyukovich, simply for doing what journalists do -- reporting the news," acting RFE/RL President Daisy Sindelar said in a statement on September 16.

"These sentences are the latest examples of the Belarusian government’s ongoing assault on independent journalism -- and a clear attempt to silence reporters telling the truth about Belarus's deeply flawed elections and the brutal crackdown on citizens that the world has been witnessing for weeks," she added.

The protesters and opposition leaders say the election was rigged. Lukashenka, who took just over 80 percent of the ballots according to official results, denies vote-rigging.

Since the vote, thousands of people have been detained and beaten by police while nearly all the opposition's key leaders have been forced to leave the country or been arrested in a widening crackdown condemned by the United States and European Union.

The crackdown includes stifling the media.

On September 4, six Belarusian journalists were sentenced to three days in jail after being detained while covering an anti-government protest in Minsk.

Belarusian authorities have stripped accreditations from at least 17 journalists from major foreign news organizations -- including five from RFE/RL or its affiliates -- who have been covering the country’s turmoil.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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