IPI calls for release of Anton Surapin
8:34, — Politics
Detention a further blow to independent journalism in Belarus.
The International Press Institute (IPI) called on Belarusian authorities to immediately release photojournalist Anton Surapin, who has been held in a KGB prison since July 13 for publishing photographs of teddy bears.
Authorities are pursuing the charges despite statements from Studio Total that it had no contact with Belarusian citizens prior to the teddy-bear drop, which Belarusian authorities initially denied had ever taken place. While Surapin has said the photos in question were e-mailed to him anonymously, the 20-year old journalist student now faces up to seven years in prison.
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “Authorities in Belarus have yet to provide evidence that Anton Surapin has done anything but report the news - which is not a crime. His arrest and continued detention will only increase self-censorship in Belarus, where the voices of independent journalists are desperately needed to counter the government’s tight control of public information. We fully support our colleagues at the Belarusian Association of Journalists in calling for Mr. Surapin’s immediate release.”
In a further incident, authorities last week arrested journalist Irina Kozlik and photographer Yulia Doroshkevich after the pair posed for photographs while holding teddy bears during an anti-government protest in Minsk. The alleged border violation has also given rise to a serious diplomatic rift between Belarus and Sweden, with Minsk recently ordering all Swedish diplomats out of the country.