Russian journalist deported from Belarus

New York, June 1, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the deportation of Rodion Marinichev, a special correspondent for the Moscow-based online broadcaster Dozhd (The Rain), from Belarus, and the ban on his reentry into the country. CPJ calls upon Belarusian authorities to remove their sanctions against the journalist.

Police in Minsk detained Marinichev on Monday, after he interviewed Irina Khalip, a prominent Belarusian journalist who had been handed a suspended two year prison term. Following his detention, Marinichev was deported from Belarus that same day, local and international press reported.

According to the independent news website Telegraf, policemen stopped Marinichev for an ID check. They then asked him to reveal the contents of his bag, and detained him afterwards for what they called “a check on belonging to an extremist group.” Marinichev was escorted to a local police station, where they kept him for three hours citing his lack of journalistic accreditation. Upon his release, police ordered Marinichev to leave Belarus within 24 hours, Telegraf reported. According to the BBC Russian service, Belarusian authorities also banned Marinichev from returning to the country for five years. He is currently in Moscow.

“Belarus is not content with trying to muzzle domestic journalists but wants to silence foreign reporters too,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The expulsion of Rodion Marinichev is a disgrace. When did it become a crime for one reporter to interview another?”

Marinichev told his broadcaster that police detained him after seeing his Russian press badge in the passport and finding phone numbers of local opposition activists whom he had interviewed earlier in Minsk. After he was released on Monday, Marinichev discovered that police deleted all the data from his digital camera and his voice recorder, including the interview with Khalip, he said. In addition to the deleted interviews, information he had gathered on Belarus’ deepening economic crisis was also erased.

Marinichev’s detention and deportation follows the Friday statement by President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who publicly criticized foreign journalists for allegedly spreading panic with their reports on the state of Belarusian economy. “Russian media have been the most hysterical,” Lukashenko told his government officials during a televised meeting, according to local and international press. “Make sure that these media outlets are no longer present on our territory.”