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Journalists under attack ahead of parliamentary elections in Belarus

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, Sep 20, 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI)'s German National Committee today condemned Belarusian police officers' detention of a number of journalists on Tuesday and the officers' reported beating of some of the journalists.

RFE/RL reported that plainclothes police officers in Minsk detained journalists from Reuters, AP and Germany's ZDF television - as well as journalists from Belarusian opposition channel Belsat TV and local news agency BelaPAN - as they covered a demonstration by opposition activists calling for a boycott of parliamentary elections set to take place on Sunday.

According to RFE/RL's report, all of the journalists were later released but some said they had been beaten. In photos circulating online, AP photographer Sergei Grits was shown with his face bloodied following his release from detention.

The full text of the statement by IPI's German National Committee appears as follows:

The International Press Institute criticizes journalist repression in Belarus

According to a report by ZDF correspondent Anne Gellinek that appeared on, the authorities in Belarus are using violence against journalists reporting on the upcoming parliamentary election. She herself was denied a visa in order to prevent her from working. Her teammates were thrown to the ground and temporarily detained as they filmed young opposition members. ZDF is now turning to the Belarus embassy with an official note of protest.

"Press freedom is quite literally being kicked around," Carl-Eugen Eberle, chairman of the International Press Institute's German national committee, said. "This blatant injustice must be forcefully protested. With this chicanery, Alexander Lukashenko has revealed his true face as the 'last dictator of Europe', as he is so often described. His actions are as upsetting as they are short-sighted. In this day and age, it must be assumed that citizen journalists and bloggers will pick up on such atrocities, spark an Internet firestorm, and thus produce exactly the publicity that was to be avoided," Eberle said.

Eberle calls for Anne Gellinek to be issued the visa that was thus far denied, in time for her to cover the elections this coming Sunday. She and her team, as well their other journalist colleagues, must be able to report on the parliamentary elections without hindrance.

IPI's affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), supports this statement.

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