On Human Rights Day, RFE/RL Journalist Recognized In Belarus

Aleh Hruzdzilovich, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Belarusian Service (Radio Svaboda), has received the award for "Best Journalist" from the Rights Defense Alliance, a Belarusian civic organization.

Hruzdzilovich, who covers opposition politics and human rights for Radio Svaboda, accepted the award at a ceremony (English translation - via Google Translate) in Minsk which coincided with the 59th annual International Day for Human Rights. This was the second year that the Rights Defense Alliance hosted the ceremony, awarding two other prizes for "Best Human Rights Defender" (Roman Kisliak) and "Best Attorney" (Paval Sapelka).

"It was completely unexpected," Hruzdzilovich said after the ceremony. "The situation in our country, in our lives, is getting progressively worse. We journalists are witnesses to all that is going on, and even participants. During recent demonstrations, authorities tried, with some success, to destroy our equipment."

Panelists speak about human rights during the awards ceremony at a hotel in Minsk.

Radio Svaboda Director Alexander Lukashuk praised his colleague, noting the significance of where the event took place. "Aleh is one of many brave journalists in Minsk. For him to receive such an award from his peers and fellow Belarusians is very significant," Lukashuk said.

As the world marks the 59th International Human Rights Day, Belarus continues to be an authoritarian outpost in an otherwise free Europe. Rights watchdogs have noted the country's heavy-handed system. Freedom House's "Freedom in the World 2009" report deemed the country "not free," Reporters Without Borders ranks Belarus 151st out of 175 countries in its 2009 "Press Freedom Index," and Human Rights Watch reports that "Belarusian authorities continue to use the criminal justice system and onerous administrative demands to control civil society, political opposition, and the media."


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