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The European Parliament has awarded the 2004 Sakharov Prize to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) in recognition of the organisation's work in championing independent media.

The "Belarusian Association of Journalists ... fights for freedom of information against the attempts by President Lukashenko to smother it," the EP said in a statement. The announcement of the 50,000 Euro (US$ 63,000) award follows recent elections in Belarus, which were criticised by international observers as being unfair.

BAJ's work includes providing legal assistance for journalists, monitoring free expression violations and lobbying the government to remove restrictions on independent media.

Named after former Russian physicist and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov, the award is given each year to an individual or organisation for "achievements in the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in safeguarding the rights of minorities, respect for international law and development of democracy and implementation of the rule of law."

Previous winners include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese dissident Wei Jing Sheng.

- European Parliament:
- BAJ:

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