(WiPC/IFEX) - International PEN is deeply concerned about the trial of Mikola Markovic, chief editor of "Pahonia" and member of International PEN's Belarusian Centre.
On 27 August 2001, a lawsuit was filed against "Pahonia" by the Grodno Regional Prosecutor for accusations of libel against President Lukashenko, an alleged breach of Article 5 of the Press Law. This action was in response to articles published in 2001 in the thirty-sixth issue of "Pahonia". Proceedings were instituted despite the fact that, at that time, there was no legal basis for the lawsuit.
"Pahonia" had received only one warning while the law requires at least two breaches of Article 5 to institute proceedings. During this prolonged process, the State Committee for the Press dropped the lawsuit, seeing no legal basis for action. Following this decision, another warning was issued to "Pahonia", giving a ground for legal proceedings. The trial has been postponed twice, suspended and is now scheduled for 8 November in Grodno.
While International PEN respects the right of individuals to seek redress before civil courts in cases of libel and defamation, it considers the use of criminal legislation and subsequent imprisonment to be inappropriate.
Send appeals to President Lukashenko:
- stating that should Markovic be convicted and sent to prison, this would be in direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the protection of freedom of expression
- expressing your hope that Markovic will be cleared of any criminal charges and that he will
not be imprisoned
H.E. Aleksandr Lukashenko
Office of the President
220010 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: +375 17 2 23 5825
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.
This is a rough translation of the poem published in "Pahonia" in 2001, one of three articles which led to the legal case against the newspaper.
I Will Promise!
I promised to the proletariat
Decent wages -
The proletariat itself has hampered that:
It works so badly.
To the people promised I
That the mafia will dieâ¦
Iâve decided to head it myself.
I promised to return deposits -
Iâve done so and you are not happy -
What can I do if your deposit
Is only enough to buy a lipstick.
I promised to give families
An incentive to have children -
But childbirth is Godâs gift:
There is one of me and many women.
I promised that a Belarusian
Will revive the former union -
Here I am not to blame:
Itâs our 'elder brother' who doesn't want us.
To the poor I promised help
Iâve done my best thank God -
I myself am rich and satisfied,
And the people are still not happy.
I promised freedom to the media:
Here it is come and take it
Theyâve not come, began complaining:
The OMON troops have not given it.
I promised to sell from the warehouse
What you donât need at a gift -
I am proud of what Iâve done
I Will sell all Belarus in bulk.
I am repeating my program
Promise everything again and again
And whoever doubts me
Should doubt himself