New York, May 23, 2021—In response to news reports that Belarusian authorities today diverted a commercial passenger flight to Minsk in order to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“We are shocked by today’s action, even as President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government has increasingly strangled the press in Belarus for the past year, detaining, fining, and expelling journalists and sentencing them to longer and longer prison terms,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “We call on Belarusian authorities to immediately release Raman Pratasevich and for European leaders to respond forcefully to this violation of international norms.”
Pratasevich was an administrator of the NEXTA-Live Telegram channel, which has millions of subscribers and actively covered protests in Belarus. This month, Said testified on threats to press freedom in Belarus, including prosecution and imprisonment of journalists, before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress.