Russian television journalist expelled

New York, June 30, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent expulsion of Pavel Selin, a correspondent with the Russian television network NTV based in Belarus’s capital, Minsk.

On Saturday, June 28, Selin was summon to the Internal Affairs Ministry, where he was told to leave the country within 24 hours, according to Russian and international news reports. The journalist returned to Moscow yesterday.

The decision to expel the journalist came after NTV aired Selin’s June 25 report from the funeral of one of Belarus’ most celebrated authors, Vasil Bykau, who is known for his harsh criticism of Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko. The author, who was terminally ill with cancer, has been living abroad for the last five years and returned to Belarus a week before his death.

The NTV news report alleged that Belarusian authorities obstructed the funeral procession, mistaking it for an opposition rally. The procession participants were carrying traditional Belarusian red and white flags, which became symbols of opposition in 1995, when Lukashenko reverted to the country’s Soviet flag.

Selin was officially stripped of his Belarusian accreditation, declared a persona non grata, and banned from entering Belarus for five years. Minsk authorities threatened to close NTV’s Belarusian bureau and have demanded an on-air apology for the news report.