Europe and Central Asia cases 2004: Country List    I   Europe and Central Asia Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JUNE 21, 2004
Posted: June 22, 2004

Mikhail Podolyak, Vremya


Early in the morning, agents of the Belarusian security service (KGB) forced Podolyak, a Ukrainian journalist, out of his home in the capital of Minsk and put him on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, according to local and international reports.

KGB agents gave Podolyak, deputy editor of the independent Minsk-based weekly Vremya, only 15 minutes to pack before they took him to the train station. His wife, Irina, a Belarusian native, was left behind.

Podolyak was expelled for violating a law that defines the rights of foreigners living in Belarus, according to an official KGB statement. The statement accused the journalist of writing "slanderous fabrications" about the political situation in Belarus.

Podolyak is banned from entering Belarus for a period of five years—a restriction noted in his passport.

In analytical pieces for Vremya, Podolyak frequently criticized the political and economic policies of the government, especially those concerning relations with Russia.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), a leading media watchdog group, condemned Podolyak's deportation. The journalist received no advance warning about his deportation and was given no opportunity to appeal it, BAJ said.

Despite his deportation, Podolyak said he would continue contributing to Vremya from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to the independent Moscow news agency Prima. Vremya's editor in chief, Pavel Zhuk, said Podolyak would remain his deputy.

Podolyak is the third foreign journalist deported from Belarus in the past six years. The heads of the Belarusian bureau of the Russian television channel NTV, Aleksandr Stupnikov and Pavel Selin, were expelled from Belarus in 1997 and 2003, respectively.

On June 3, the Information Ministry ordered a three-month suspension of the opposition weekly Rabochaya Solidarnost for allegedly failing to inform authorities of a change in address. On June 9, the Oktyabrsky District Court in Minsk sentenced Oksana Novikova, a private citizen, to two and a half years in prison for libeling Your Excellency—a criminal offense under Belarusian law. On April 5, Novikova was detained as she distributed leaflets critical of you at a Minsk subway station.

In 2003, Belarusian authorities also cracked down on U.S.-funded organizations providing assistance to local media. The Foreign Ministry refused to extend its accreditation of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and Internews Network, forcing them to close their Minsk offices and end their media training programs—a move that added to the growing isolation of Belarus from the international community.

OCTOBER 17, 2004
Posted: October 22, 2004

Pavel Sheremet, First Channel

Several men beat prominent Belarusian journalist Sheremet, a correspondent for Russian television's First Channel. The attack occurred on the day a constitutional referendum allowing President Aleksandr Lukashenko to run for additional terms was passed.

Sheremet was hospitalized in Minsk with a concussion, and police charged him with hooliganism, according to local and international press reports. He was ordered to report to the Soviet Regional Court in Minsk on October 20. The hearing was postponed indefinitely because the police had failed to file the necessary documents in his case.

On October 19, a peaceful opposition protest in Minsk challenging the legitimacy of the constitutional referendum was violently dispersed by police. Fifty opposition activists were detained that evening, and several journalists were injured, including cameramen from the Russian television channels NTV and REN-TV, whose video cameras were smashed.

OCTOBER 20, 2004

Posted: October 22, 2004

Veronika Cherkasova, Solidarnost


Well-known Belarusian journalist Cherkasova was killed in her apartment in the capital, Minsk. Her body, which had multiple stab wounds, was found that night, according to local and international reports.

Cherkasova, 44, had reported for the Minsk-based opposition newspaper Solidarnost since May 2003. Previously, she worked for the independent business newspaper Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG), where she reported from 1995 to 2002. Cherkasova primarily covered social and cultural news but occasionally wrote about politically sensitive issues such as drug abuse, according to her former BDG colleague and editor, Svetlana Kalinkina.

Marina Zagorskaya, a Solidarnost reporter, told CPJ that four months ago, Cherkasova had written a series, titled "The KGB is still following you," outlining the methods of surveillance the Belarusian Security Services currently use to monitor civilians' activities.

Cherkasova's stepfather, Vladimir Melezhko, found the journalist's body last night after she did not go to work and failed to answer phone calls on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. She was stabbed 20 times, mostly around the throat. Police found no evidence of a break-in, and nothing was taken from the apartment, according to local reports.