Friday, June 11, 2021

Ireland’s Minister for Media, Catherine Martin, has called for the immediate release of a Belarusian journalist who was taken from a Ryanair flight forced to land in Belarus.

Attending a Council of Europe conference on media and information society on Friday, Ms Martin said Ireland was “deeply concerned” over media freedoms in Belarus.

She told European ministers present that the journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega were now at risk of potential torture and ill-treatment in Belarusian detention.

It comes after Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet on May 23rd and flagged a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair passenger plane bound for Lithuania to land in Belarus, before detaining the opposition-minded journalist on board.

Ireland is deeply concerned for their welfare

“Ireland is deeply concerned regarding the situation of media freedoms in Belarus. Independent journalists and media must be allowed to conduct their work free from harassment, intimidation and fear,” Ms Martin said.

“I reiterate Ireland’s call for the Belarusian authorities to end the repression and restore fundamental rights and freedoms.

“We welcome the decision of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to investigate this incident, but Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega now languish in detention in Belarus.

“Ireland is deeply concerned for their welfare given the numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in detention received by UN Special Rapporteurs.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those unjustly detained, including political prisoners and media workers.”

Freedom of expression

The conference of European ministers agreed actions around reinforcing the protections afforded to journalists and other media actors engaged in work that is “instrumental for the healthy operation of democracy.”

Ministers also agreed actions to address rapid technological changes in the media and information environment, and their impacts on democracy and freedom of expression.

Speaking at the conference, Ms Martin reiterated Ireland’s support for measures around the protection of freedom of expression.

“Ireland welcomes the adoption of this resolution that supports the right to form, hold and express an opinion without undue interference, along with its corollaries of freedom of information and media freedom, which is crucial for the fulfilment and protection of all other human rights,” she said.

“Ireland recognises the importance of freedom of expression for a democratic society and supports a strengthening of safeguards against adverse impacts arising from the use of digital technology.”

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