Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip finally freed

Press release of Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is pleased to learn that the Belarusian authorities have finally lifted the restrictions on journalist Irina Khalip’s movements that had been in place for more than two and a half years.

A court in the Minsk district of Partyzanski ruled on 19 July that Khalip, a correspondent of the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, had satisfied the conditions of the two-year probation period imposed on when she was given a two-year suspended jail sentence on 16 May 2011.

“The regime has made a small concession to freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But the court violated judicial procedures by refusing to tell journalists when the hearing would be held in order to prevent them attending. Judge Rita Shagray, who is banned from entering the European Union, also forbad use of audio, photo and video equipment to cover the hearing.

We again urge the authorities to end all forms of persecution, including judicial persecution, of Belarusian journalists such as Andrzej Poczobut, who is still facing the possibility of three years in prison.”

Khalip’s movements had been restricted since January 2011, when she was released after being held for more than a month. Arrested in December 2010 because of her coverage of anti-government protests, she was convicted on a charge “organizing and preparing a public order disruption.”

Under the terms of her probation, Khalip had to report to a police station once a week, could not leave her apartment after 10 p.m., and could not travel outside Minsk without permission.

“They took away almost three years of my life,” Khalip said. “If someone thinks that I am now a free person, it is a mistake. I was under virtual house arrest for two years and now they expect me to say thank you for not jailing me.”

Belarus is ranked 157th out of 178 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Lukashenko has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators” for years because of his shameless persecution of independent media and journalists.

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