OSCE media freedom representative calls for thorough and independent investigation into death of opposition website director in Belarus

VIENNA, 6 September 2010 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, said today she was troubled by the recent death of one of the leading journalists behind the Belarusian opposition website Charter97 and called for a thorough and independent investigation.

Oleg Bebenin, 36, was found dead on Friday in his country house near Minsk. Belarusian law enforcement made a preliminary conclusion that Bebenin had committed suicide.

"The death of Bebenin is a great loss to Belarusian journalism. His embattled website remains one of a few non-governmental sources of information, and its staff was subject to continued administrative pressure," said Mijatovic.

"I welcome the General Prosecutor's Office's investigation into other possible versions of the journalist's death, despite the preliminary conclusion that the journalist committed suicide.

"I call on the Belarusian authorities to conduct an independent investigation into this tragic death. This is particularly important to avoid exacerbating the chilling effect on Belarusian media that questions over his death would have."

Mijatovic offered her condolences to Bebenin's family, colleagues and friends.


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