Belarus police beat, detained journalists who covered protest rally
18.09.12 19:55 , обновлено 18.09.12 19:53 By Denis Lavnikevich, edited by Karina Ayvazova
In Minsk, an unite notified man in civilian clothes beat and drove off journalists of Belarusian and international news agencies. Moreover, some opposition activists who were holding an anti-government rally were detained by police.
On Tuesday evening a man in civilian clothes in the center of Minsk attacked and beat several journalists: The Associated Press photojournalist Sergei Grits, the Reuters photographer Vasily Fedosenko, the crew of the German television channel ZDF, the Belarusian news agency correspondents "BelaPAN" Tatiana Zenkovich and Pavel Padabed as well as the independent journalist Alexander Barazenka. Afterwards they were all put into several cars and driven away to an unknown location. Among those detained were also activists of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Artsibashev and Anna Kurlovich.
The incident occurred shortly after noon in the city center, near the supermarket "Frunze", where activists of the youth wing of the civil campaigns "Tell the Truth" - "Change" - organized a campaign rally.
At the picket everyone was given a symbolic cup of soup - a reminder of the public statements of the head of the Belarusian central elections commission
Shortly after the beginning of the rally some unknown people approached the protesters and journalists who were covering the rally and started to beat and arrest them. Afterwards they were taken to unmarked minivans and driven to an unknown location.
According to witnesses, all of the journalists were injured. Shortly after the attack, the journalists' cell phones were unreadable
, and the police in Minsk did not comment on what had happened. Some time later the local police confirmed the detainees were brought to the Frunzenskiy police department.
A little later, the Minsk police spokesman Alexander Lastovsky said that the journalists were released from the police. "All journalists who were taken to the police station today in the Frunze district, have been released. It was not a detention. The police just checked the documents, accreditation, found out their identities and let them go, - said Lastovsky.
According to colleagues, The Associated Press journalist Sergei Grits " was covered in blood." The ZDF journalists have called the German embassy and asked the consul to help them.
"The journalists were doing their job, they had every right to cover the rally - said the deputy chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, lawyer Andrei Bastunets. - No matter where and when the reporters were beaten. The most important fact is that they were beaten while doing their professional duties."
Beatings and detentions of Alexander Lukashenko's opponents and journalists by people in plain clothes has become a common practice in Belarus.
Freelance photojournalist Julia Doroshkevich herself was repeatedly the victim of such attacks. "Unfortunately, the practice of detaining journalists in Belarus while doing their professional duties has become common – Doroshkevich said to Gazeta.ru ". - As a rule, the attackers are skinhead men in civilian clothes who attack journalists, detained them, damage their equipment - but then they does not bear any responsibility. Especially brutal attacks on journalists, with beatings and arrests took place after the presidential elections of 12 December 2010 ".
"Unfortunately, such actions by law enforcement agencies of Belarus - is not uncommon, especially during political campaigns. This is not the first time when they use the brute force against participants of peaceful street protests and journalists who cover the them, - the representative of the Belarusian software organization "Index on Censorship" Andrei Alexandrov said.
On Tuesday in Belarus early elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly began. Primary election is due on September 23. The opposition activists accuse the Belarusian authorities of conducting primary election for vote rigging. This has been also confirmed by international observers.
The international community has declared all election campaigns that were held in Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko since 1996, not free and unfair. The head of the Central Election Commission of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina was denied entry into the EU and the U.S for vote rigging.
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