Authorities deny entry to Polish television journalists

New York, April 26, 2006—Belarusian authorities in the capital, Minsk, and at the Poland-Belarus border crossing Kuznica Bialostocka-Bruzgi denied entry to two crews from the Polish public television channel Telewizja Polska on Tuesday, the broadcaster reported.

Both crews were headed to Minsk to cover opposition rallies marking the 20th anniversary of the April 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl plant in the former Soviet state of Ukraine, according to the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Belarus suffered much of the nuclear fallout

The first crew, headed by reporter Jacek Gasinski, traveled to Minsk by plane. The crew members had valid visas and press accreditations, but airport police denied them entry and ordered them to return to Warsaw. No explanation was given. Gasinski tape-recorded a statement by one officer, saying that he was following orders from superiors, RFE/RL said.

Another Telewizja Polska crew, headed by reporter Jaroslav Kamensky, traveled to Belarus by car. The crew members also had valid visas and press accreditations, but Belarusian guards at the Kuznica Bialostocka-Bruzgi border crossing denied them entry and voided Kamensky’s visa, local and international press reports said.

Belarusian authorities routinely turn back from the border journalists that officials allege are dishonest, CPJ research shows. The practice has escalated in recent months after widespread irregularities were reported in the March 19 presidential election, which secured authoritarian President Aleksandr Lukashenko a third term in office.

“We deplore authorities’ efforts to stop independent reporting on Belarus and demand that TVP journalists be granted immediate entry to Belarus,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

Belarusian authorities have expelled several journalists ahead of the March presidential vote. Televizja Polska journalist Agnieszka Romaszewska was detained at the airport in Minsk and deported to Poland in December, according to local and international press reports.

Adam Tuchinksi, a photographer with the weekly 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.