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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Polish Dailies Black Out Front Pages Over Belarus

APBoris holding Gazeta Wyborcza.
WARSAW -- Poland's two leading newspapers blacked out large sections of their front pages Wednesday in an eye-catching protest against media repression in neighboring Belarus.

The main pages of Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita looked as if a censor had taken a black marker to them, with most text and photographs crossed out. The two papers were joining a protest led by Amnesty International.

At the bottom of both front pages, the human rights group wrote: "This is what freedom of speech looks like in Belarus." The papers then printed their front page in full on page three, and carried commentaries and reports of humans rights abuses in Belarus.

Amnesty also ran an advertisement in Rzeczpospolita calling on Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to observe human rights treaties protecting freedom of expression.

"The Belarussian authorities are increasingly employing harassment, intimidation, excessive force, mass detentions and long-term imprisonment as methods to quash any civil or political dissent," Amnesty wrote in the open letter.

Parliament Speaker Marek Jurek supported Amnesty's campaign and called for international rights to be observed by Minsk. "We must take strong action in defense of the accepted international principles and we must demand that they are observed in Belarus and in the nations that have relations with it," Jurek said on state radio.

Polish leaders and human rights groups have spoken out strongly in favor of democratic change in the eastern neighbor Belarus. Poland has also stood in support of the Polish minority there, saying it was not enjoying full rights.

Also Wednesday, UN human rights experts met in Warsaw to discuss the plight of the ethnic Polish minority in Belarus.

"In the 21st century, in the center of Europe, it's hard to believe you can shut someone away because he has a different opinion," said Angelica Boris, a leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus who has been detained several times by Belarussian authorities.