Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned conviction of three Belarusian columnists, Sergey Shiptenko, Yuri Pavlovets, and Dmitry Alimkin, who were found guilty of “kindling ethnic hatred” and given suspended five-year sentences.
A statement by Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, says that “these sentences would be appropriate for dangerous criminals, to deter them from reoffending, but not for bloggers who were prosecuted for expressing controversial views.”
“Under international standards on freedom of expression, there is no justification for such disproportionate sentences. We call for their convictions to be overturned on appeal,” Bihr said in the statement published on the RSF website.
As EADaily reported earlier, on February 2, Shiptenko, Pavlovets, and Alimkin were convicted of “kindling ethnic hatred within a group of individuals” (while the court mean that the “group” was not the three journalists, but each of them with editors of Russian media). They were sentenced for five years with suspension for three years. They had spent 14 months in pre-trial custody before the trial. They were arrested for criticizing alignment of the Belarusian authorities with radical nationalists and fostering anti-Russian sentiments in Belarus.