New York, February 21, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the expulsion of a Polish journalist after he legally entered Belarus to report on presidential elections next month.
Border guards detained Gazeta Wyborcza correspondent Waclaw Radziwinowicz on Sunday at the train station in the Western city of Grodno as he was traveling to the capital Minsk. They ordered him to return to Poland saying his name was on a government list of people barred from entering. Radziwinowicz said he had a valid Belarusian visa and accreditation from the Foreign Ministry.
“(President Aleksandr) Lukashenko has destroyed freedom of speech in the country and is trying to punish journalists not under his control on the eve of the March 19 presidential elections,” The Associated Press quoted Radziwinowicz as saying.
“We deplore the expulsion of Waclaw Radziwinowicz, and demand that he and other journalists barred from the country be immediately allowed to return to Belarus and report freely,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.
CPJ staff traveled to Belarus in early February to meet with local journalists and reported that government persecution of the country’s few independent newspapers had undermined the integrity of the presidential election. (See news alert of February 10: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/europe/belarus10feb06na.html)
Belarusian authorities have expelled several journalists ahead of the polls. Agnieszka Romaszewska, a journalist for Polish public broadcaster Telewizja Polska, was detained at Minsk airport and sent back to Poland in December, according to local and international press reports.
Adam Tuchinksi, a Polish photojournalist with the weekly news magazine Przekroj was deported in August and banned from Belarus for five years. The same month, Belarusian authorities refused to admit independent Polish journalist Marcin Smialowski, who had press accreditation and a visa for the country.