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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalists Arrive in Belarus To Honor Restricted Sheremet

MINSK, Belarus -- A Belarussian journalist received a press freedom award in Minsk on Tuesday from the Committee to Protect Journalists, after the government barred him from traveling to New York to accept the honor.

Officials with the New York-based CPJ, including director Ann Cooper, flew to Belarus to give Pavel Sheremet the International Press Freedom Award in person.

"We came here to show our personal support and solidarity with Pavel Sheremet and all Belarussian journalists who continue to perform their professional duties in such difficult conditions,'' said Chrystina Lapychak, the committee's program coordinator for Eastern Europe.

Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief for Russia's ORT television and chief editor of the newspaper Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, was selected "for his great courage and ability to defend his rights despite constant persecution,'' Lapychak said.

Sheremet has endured arrest and imprisonment while covering the increasingly strict government in the former Soviet republic.

Belarus' visa department refused him an exit visa to attend the CPJ award ceremony on Nov. 24 in New York, citing orders from the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarussian citizens still need an exit visa to leave the country, a practice from Soviet times that has been abolished in most other former Soviet republics.

The authoritarian Lukashenko has frequently complained about the Russian news media's coverage of his country and has claimed on several occasions that Sheremet and other journalists were trying to harm the image of Belarus.

Despite protests by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and human rights activists, Belarussian authorities held Sheremet in jail for 2 1/2 months and then gave him a two-year suspended sentence for a report on Belarus' lax border controls.