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Supreme Court reduces editor's jail sentence but maintains conviction on charges of inciting religious hatred

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 22 February 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Welcomes Belarus Court Decision to Free Editor but Condemns Continuing Threat to Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed a decision by the Belarus Supreme Court to reduce the jail sentence for Aliaksandar Zdzvizhkou, which will allow the former deputy editor of Zhoda newspaper to leave prison immediately.

"This decision by the Supreme Court lets our colleague out of jail, but unfortunately the conviction stands," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "It also means that Belarus journalists may be jailed for their work in future, which is not acceptable. This threat should be removed."

Zdzvizhkou was convicted in January on charges of inciting religious hatred for re-printing the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in 2006 and originally sentenced to 3 years in jail. Sources from the journalist community said the Supreme Court has reduced Zdzvizhkou's sentence to three months in jail, time he has already served, and his release is expected today.

Last week, the government freed activist and journalist Andrei Klimau who had been convicted of trying to overthrow the government and jailed after he wrote articles critical of the government that were published on the Internet.

The IFJ hopes that these recent decisions signal that the government will discontinue its practice of jailing journalists for press offences.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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