TLHRC Co-Chairs Call for the Release of Belarusian Journalist Ihar Losik
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress, issued the following statement in response to the unjust detention and ongoing prosecution of Belarusian journalist Ihar Losik.
“We are deeply troubled by the Belarusian government’s decision to file new charges against Ihar, after having kept him behind bars and away from his young family for the past nine months. Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the brutal crackdowns and sham charges leveled at the press in Belarus for reporting on the repressive actions of the government of Alexander Lukashenko. Ihar and other political prisoners must be released immediately.
“We are further shocked and disheartened to hear of Ihar’s deteriorating health and morale. We urge him to not give up hope and to draw strength from his supporters in Belarus, the United States and around the world.”
Losik, a 28-year-old blogger and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty social media consultant, was detained weeks before Belarus erupted in mass demonstrations last summer over Lukashenko’s fraudulent reelection. Faced with the possibility of an eight-year prison term, Losik went on a nearly six-week hunger strike in December to protest allegations that he helped organize riots. Losik reportedly attempted to die by suicide upon learning of the additional charges filed against him this week and began another hunger strike.
The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, composed of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, promotes, defends and advocates for international human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related human rights instruments.