U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 8, 2021
Joint Statement of the UN Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists on the Detention by the Belarusian Authorities of Journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega
The co-chairs of the United Nations Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists – Greece, France and Lithuania – and the undersigned Members of the Group of Friends strongly condemn the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on May 23, 2021, prompted by Belarusian authorities in order to arrest and detain independent journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega.
Reiterating the Statements of the UN Secretary-General, we support a full, transparent and independent investigation into the disturbing and unprecedented incident, which constitutes a frontal attack on media freedom and urge all relevant actors to cooperate with such an inquiry.
We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, as well as other journalists and media workers, and that their human rights and fundamental freedoms be respected.
We strongly condemn the harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions and the prosecution of journalists and media workers, as well as members of the opposition, human rights defenders, and other members of civil society in Belarus and beyond, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, including freedom of information, as well as freedom of peaceful assembly and association. We further condemn any use of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment as a means to force public confessions. We also express our concern over the recently adopted laws on media and mass events that will further facilitate such harassment and prosecution.
Media freedom is an essential part of democratic societies. States should ensure a free, safe and enabling environment for journalists to perform their work independently and without interference. Arbitrary detentions are obstructing the task of journalism in building inclusive societies and democracies, helping shape an informed public debate and fostering intercultural dialogue, peace and good governance. There can be no Press Freedom when there is fear.
We extend our support to the efforts of the international non-governmental and grass roots organizations to promote the protection of journalists and media workers, their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to all the Member States in promoting an environment in which journalists can carry out their work without fear of reprisal or intimidation.
Co-chairs of the UN Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists, Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives of Greece, France and Lithuania
Co-signatories members of the Group of Friends (in alphabetical order):
Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, Latvia, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, Uruguay