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Belarus Cracks Down

The Belarusian government has cracked down on independent media. Security agents detained some thirty journalists in twelve cities on suspicion of insulting the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko. Libeling the president in Belarus is punishable by up to four years in jail.

The Belarusian security service raided the offices of independent radio and newspapers in Minsk, as well as the private apartments of journalists throughout the country. Many independent correspondents were arrested and detained, and their equipment and material were confiscated.

The nationwide raids followed a recent, peaceful rally by thousands of Belarusians who were marching for freedom and closer ties with the West.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement condemning the crackdown on the independent media in Belarus. "The regime of Alexander Lukashenko," the statement said, "has again shown itself as a brutal, authoritarian dictatorship that blatantly ignores human rights and fundamental freedoms." The U.S. calls on the Belarus authorities to immediately release all of those who have been arrested and jailed.

The U.S. also continues to call on the Belarusian government to release political prisoner and former opposition candidate Alexander Kozulin.

The U.S. regrets that Belarus has chosen the path of confrontation over one of reform and freedom. Until Belarus embarks on a more democratic society, it will continue to be an isolated, pariah nation. In the meantime, the United States is concerned for the people of Belarus and looks forward to the day when we can have a meaningful relationship with a Belarusian government that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens.