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Published On: Sat, Nov 18th, 2017

Borderline “forced disappearance” of Ukrainian journalist in Belarus

nsnbc : The State Security Agency of Belarus reportedly arrested Pavlo Sharoyko, a special correspondent for the National Ukrainian Radio in Minsk, on October 25. News about his arrest became only public on November 17 after fellow Ukrainian journalists took the initiative and reported about Sharoyko’s arrest.

Ukraine journalist Pavlo Sharoykoreportedly detained in Belarus Oct 25_Nov 2017Following initiatives and reports by fellow Ukrainian journalists Sharoyko’s wife and the Ukraine ambassador to Belarus Ihor Kyzym confirmed that he had been arrested. Ambassador Kyzym told RFE/RL “We are figuring out the situation. The question is under our control.” He added that his embassy sent a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.

Serhiy Tomilenko, Head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine  wrote on Facebook that Sharoyko’s apartment had been searched, and he had only got a state-appointed attorney.

Disturbingly, the Ukrainian journalist has apparently been held since October 25 while he hasn’t been formally charged with any crime – at least not officially. Zurab Alasania, CEO of the Ukraine’s Public Broadcasting Company, cited unaccredited sources saying Pavlo Sharoyko was accused of espionage. That said, even a person under suspicion of espionage has the right to due process, legal counsel, consular access, and more.

So far, Belarus has not responded to the allegations. Spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Mironchik refused to comment, Interfax reported on November 17.

News about the detention of the journalist transpired only because a fellow Ukrainian journalist did what many journalists don’t do – to act responsibly, take care of each other, and raise red flags when colleagues are being targeted or “disappeared”.

Deputy chief editor of the National Ukrainian Radio Svitlana Myalyk said on the air with TV Channel that last time she spoke to Sharoyko on October 23. When she had not heard from her Minsk reporter for over a week, she unsuccessfully tried contacting him and his family.

Myalyk said she believes Sharoyko’s detention may be linked to his professional activity as he covered meetings of the Trilateral contact group on Ukraine, opposition movement in Belarus, and Russia-Belarus military exercises Zapad-2017.

Sharoyko also covered the story of a Ukrainian teenager Pavlo Hryb who disappeared in Belarus and was taken by Russian special services. A 19-year-old was arrested in Belarus on August 25 and later moved to the Krasnodar detention center in southern Russia. The court extended Hryb’s custody until January on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack in Sochi.

Sharoyko is not the only Ukrainian journalist in Belarus and Russia who was targeted. Journalist Roman Sushchenko remains in custody in Russia where he’s pending a trial. A France correspondent for Ukrainian newswire Ukrinform Sushchenko was detained in Moscow on September 30, 2016, on charges of espionage. Official Kyiv called the accusations far-fetched and politically motivated.

CH/L – nsnbc 18.11.2017

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