Accessibility links

Belarusian Security Agents Arrest EU-Funded Journalists

Belarusian security agents have arrested at least 16 independent journalists on suspicion of insulting President Alexander Lukashenko.

Police detained the journalists Thursday during raids on the offices of broadcasters, including European Radio -- which is funded by the European Union -- and Radio Racja -- which is backed by Poland.

The reporters say they were questioned about their coverage of Tuesday's unauthorized rally marking the 90th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence.

But Belarusian authorities say the journalists were detained for not having proper accreditation.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says President Lukashenko's government again shows itself to be what the spokesman calls an "authoritarian dictatorship that blatantly ignores human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Belarusian courts Wednesday tried more than 70 opposition activists detained during the March 25th rally. Some were sentenced to several days in jail, while others were fined.

Belarusian opposition groups have used the March 25 anniversary to protest Mr. Lukashenko's policies and mark the 1918 founding of the Belarusian National Republic, later crushed by Soviet Red Army forces.

The United States has called Mr. Lukashenko Europe's last dictator for suppressing human rights and free speech and rigging elections.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.