OSCE urges Belarus to free journalist jailed over Mohammed cartoon

By RIA Novosti

Vienna : The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has condemned a three-year prison sentence given to a journalist in Belarus, the organization’s press-service reported on Friday.

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An OSCE media freedom representative criticized the former Soviet republic’s decision to jail Alexander Zdvizhkov, ex-deputy editor of the Zhoda newspaper, in a high-security prison for reprinting controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

“In 21st century Europe, it is shocking to see an editor arrested, tried behind closed doors and punished beyond any acceptable limits only for reprinting cartoons produced elsewhere and that have been published everywhere,” Miklos Haraszti said.

The cartoons, which provoked outrage and riots throughout the Muslim world when published in 2005, were originally printed in a Danish newspaper.

Zhoda was closed down in March 2006 after criminal proceedings had been launched for ‘inciting religious hatred’ in connection with the publication of the cartoons.

The newspaper was later reopened after Zdvizhkov’s arrest in November 2007, following its former editor’s return to Belarus after two years of self-imposed exile in Russia and Ukraine.

“I see the imprisonment of Zdvizhkov and the closing of Zhoda…as part of a campaign against a team of independent journalists, one of the few that are still working in Belarus,” Haraszti said.