Today, Freedom Day in Belarus, the National Union of Journalists’ branch in the Netherlands calls for the release of Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova, together with ten other colleagues, who are in prison simply for doing their job, reporting on events in their country.

NUJ Netherlands fears their imprisonment amounts to the criminalisation of journalism by President Lukashenko's regime.

The NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, today joined 50 other leaders of journalist organisations in Europe demanding their release.

They are appealing to the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union to intensify the pressure on the authorities in Belarus to bring about an adherence to basic standards of human rights and press freedom.

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

Today we have seen a significant show of unity and solidarity amongst journalists' leaders and trade union representatives, to stand up for journalists and the media in Belarus. The 12 journalists in jail must be release immediately and we are seeking support from European governments to use their influence to support global press freedom.

The two journalists were working for Polish satellite television station Belsat when arrested reporting on anti-government rally in Minsk last November. On 18 February they were sentenced to two years in prison for "organizing public events aimed at disrupting civil order." The two rejected the charges against them, saying in court:

We consider the verdict as politically motivated, aiming to intimidate all media workers so they stop doing their job of reporting on socially important events in the country, which in fact means a ban on the profession.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) and their affiliate in Belarus, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), have strongly condemned their imprisonment, recognising them as political prisoners,  demanding their immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them. IFJ President Younes Mjahed said: 

This decision is shameful and totally unfounded. a clear attack on press freedom and we all stand together against this mockery of justice.

The NUJ in the UK and Ireland has asked its members to write to the journalists currently in jail. See Journalists leaders stand up for Belarus media

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