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Debates
Thursday, 5 July 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Freedom of expression in Belarus, in particular, the case of Andrzej Poczobut (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, even though Mr Poczobut was released from custody, he still faces charges of libel which seem to target him as a result of his journalistic activities and as a member of the Polish minority population, and sadly, he is not the only one. The situation of human rights defenders, civil society representatives, journalists, and citizens in general in Belarus is seriously deteriorating. Freedom of expression, including online on the Internet, is under real pressure. Sadly, this is also taking place with the help of EU-based companies who have exported technologies to Belarus to facilitate this repression.

This kind of aiding and abetting of human rights violations through technologies made in Europe should end. It is indeed the last dictatorship in Europe and we should act to turn that around and make it a democracy as soon as we can. The EU should give a clear signal to the Belarusian authorities that they are not welcome at the Eastern Partnership meeting in Brussels at the end of this month. EU engagement with Belarus is already subject to strict conditionality, and the Belarusian authorities should commit to respect for human rights and the rule of law as they stated themselves in the declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership summit of 2009.

Meanwhile, we should step up our engagement with Belarusian civil society organisations and promote more intense people-to-people contact. Simply put, any and all restrictions on freedom of association, assembly, opinion and expression in Belarus need to be lifted. Respecting these freedoms is among the very basic cornerstones of democracy which, ironically, the Belarusian authorities have committed themselves to respect. We may have to consider additional sanctions and indeed step up our efforts to ensure that the EU sanctions in place are enforced so that they are not just a paper reality.

 
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