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Zatulin: Journalists arrested in Belarus must be released

The recent arrest of several pro-Russian journalists in Belarus was politically motivated and gives the civil society and leadership of Russia a cause for reflection, says Konstantin Zatulin, the head of the CIS Institute, the first deputy head of the State Duma Committee for CIS, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots (The United Russia Party).

“I condemn this situation. I do not think that such measures can be applied against journalists irrespective of their citizenship. Sometimes, no measures are taken even against journalists who make much harsher criticism. It is quite natural, because criticism and freedom of speech are largely interconnected. If the Union State is based on democratic standards, we should respect the freedom of speech too,” Zatulin says.

In his words, the arrests had biased motives that must not go unnoticed by the Russian society.

“Of course, I do not agree with some publications of those authors, but I think that detention had biased motives,” the parliamentarian says. “Why has discussion of issues connected with the Russian world become censurable in Belarus? All this is a cause for serious reflection not only for the people, but also for the authorities of our country who, as far as I can understand, share the idea of the Russian world. I think those people must be set free,” the parliamentarian says.

He is sure that the Belarus side could use against journalists their own methods i.e. debate, polemics, but not criminal proceedings.

“It appears to me that the Russian Federation should have expressed its stand on inadequacy of those measures soundly, but quite calmly, without conflicting with Belarus,” Zatulin says.

As EADaily reported earlier, three Russian journalists were arrested in Belarus in early December: Yuri Pavlovets, EADaily’s analyst, Sergey Shiptenko, the editor-in-chief of New Economy magazine, and publicist Dmitry Alimkin. The journalists were arrested on charge of inciting ethnic hatred and may face 5-12 years in jail.

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