Minsk, December 8, 1998 -- Representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today hand-delivered its 1998 International Press Freedom Award to Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet in Minsk, two weeks after Belarusian authorities denied Sheremet permission to travel to New York to accept the honor at a gala awards ceremony.
With dozens of independent journalists, diplomats, and politicians on hand, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper presented the award to Sheremet, whose plight drew international attention and widespread press coverage of the November 24 event at the Waldorf-Astoria. The ceremony in Belarus was arranged with the help of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, an organization representing independent media.
"This support, from U.S., Russian, and European journalists, is very important to my colleagues here," said Sheremet today in accepting the award. "CPJ has closely tracked my problems with the Belarusian authorities as editor of Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, dating back to 1996," he said.
The 28-year-old Sheremet has endured every kind of harassment for his coverage of Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko's crackdown on the media in Belarus. Sheremet is the Minsk bureau chief of ORT (Russian Public Television), as well as editor of Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta.
In 1997, Sheremet was stripped of his media accreditation, jailed for two months, and barred from leaving the country in reprisal for his investigative reports on Lukashenko's Soviet-style policies. The Belarus government denied CPJ's request to temporarily waive the travel restrictions.
Belarusian authorities finally lifted the travel ban on November 26--two days too late.
"The timing of this decision confirms what we already suspected, that restricting Sheremet's travel to New York was a politically motivated effort to stifle press freedom," said Cooper.
As a gesture of support to Sheremet and his colleagues, Cooper and CPJ Europe program coordinator Chrystyna Lapychak traveled to Minsk to personally present the award. "We're honoring Pavel not only for his professionalism, but also for his special courage and his readiness to defend the universal rights of journalists, " said Lapychak.
The CPJ International Press Freedom Awards honor journalists who have bravely provided news coverage and viewpoints in the face of arrest, imprisonment, violence against them and their families, and threats of death. Other journalists who received the 1998 awards are Grémah Boucar, director general of Radio Anfani in Niger; Gustavo Gorriti, a Peruvian investigative journalist who is associate editor of La Prensa in Panama; Goenawan Mohamad, founder and editor of Tempo news magazine in Indonesia; and Ruth Simon, a correspondent for Agence France-Presse who has been imprisoned in Eritrea since April 25, 1997.
Read More About Pavel Sheremet in CPJ's Feature on the International Press Freedom Awards