Belarusian Newspaper Sues Former Employee For Libel

BERASTSE, Belarus -- Preliminary hearings ended today in the case of a Belarusian journalist who is being sued by his former newspaper for libel, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The newspaper "Znamya yunosti" (The Youth Banner), based in the western city of Berastse, is suing Ales Lyauchuk for allegedly "damaging the publication's business reputation in interviews with RFE/RL and a statement made on his personal blog."

Lyauchuk said during the RFE/RL interviews and wrote on his blog that "Znamya yunosti" fired him after he refused his editors' instructions to write "negatively about the opposition protests on December 19-20."

The newspaper is demanding Lyauchuk publicly refute the statement and apologize.

Lyauchuk says he was fired because he refused to criticize demonstrations protesting the official results of December's presidential election in which Alyaksandr Lukashenka was reelected amid charges of electoral fraud.

A district court in Berastse heard both sides of the case today and ruled that a trial will begin on February 18.


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