22 August 2005

OSCE Concerned About Belarus Cartoons Libel

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has expressed concern about a criminal libel case in Belarus that centers on satirical animated Internet cartoons featuring the president.

The two-minute cartoons feature caricatures of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his administration and poke fun at him for his Soviet style of leading the country.

Last week, Paval Marozau, one of the founders of the cartoon series, told The Associated Press that security agents had questioned him and two others, accusing them of insulting the honor of Lukashenka.

The OSCE's media freedom representative, Miklos Haraszti, said that treating cartoons as acts of criminal libel or insult is completely against the concept of free political debate.

Lukashenka, who has ruled since 1994, has quashed dissent, closed independent media and suppressed opposition parties.

( AP)