Belarusian charge d' affaires summoned over journalist rights

Lukasz Jasina said the main reason for the summons was a Belarusian court's recent sentencing of Iryna Slaunikava, a journalist who has worked for Polish state-owned broadcaster TVP for the past 15 years, to a five-year labour camp term. Rafał Guz/PAP

The Belarusian charge d' affaires in Poland has been summoned to the Polish foreign ministry in connection with the persecution of journalists and the Polish minority in his country, the foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.



Lukasz Jasina said the main reason for the summons was a Belarusian court's recent sentencing of Iryna Slaunikava, a journalist who has worked for Polish state-owned broadcaster TVP for the past 15 years, to a five-year labour camp term.

Slaunikava was sentenced in Gomel, south eastern Belarus, on charges of "creating an extremist formation."

After the meeting between the Belarusian diplomat and the Polish foreign minister, Jasina said the Belarusian side saw Poland's objections to Slaunikava's conviction and the Belarusian regime's steps towards the Polish minority as interference in its internal affairs.

Earlier, Jasina said that also discussed will be recent acts of vandalism on Polish war cemeteries in Belarus and the continued persecution of the country's Polish minority, especially the members and leaders of the officially unrecognised Union of Poles in Belarus.

Later on Thursday, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told PAP that the sentencing of Iryna Slaunikava to five years in a penal colony is unfortunately another example of how the regime in Minsk is trying to silence independent journalism.

He also drew attention to the 29 journalists currently detained in Belarus and called for the regime to release all media workers from prison and to respect freedom of speech, freedom of the media and Belarus's own international obligations in this regard.

Slaunikava was sentenced on Wednesday after a trial lasting over a month. The trial was held behind closed doors. She had previously,  been recognised by human rights defenders as a prisoner of conscience and that her trial was politically motivated.