SALCININKAI BORDER CROSSING POINT, Lithuania (Reuters) – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday held a protest against the treatment of journalists by Belarus at the country’s border with Lithuania.
On Sunday Belarus forcibly landed a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius and arrested the opposition blogger Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend who were onboard.
The incident sparked international outrage and calls for sanctions against Belarus. Minsk accused the West of using the episode to wage “hybrid war.”
RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire, who headed the protests, told reporters on Wednesday in Vilnius that Belarus’ actions were part of a new way of attacking press freedom and that this was something “not imaginable a few years ago.”
“In Belarus, there is an institutional hijacking of a plane, just to arrest the journalist,” he said.
He and a dozen Lithuanian and Belarusian protesters held pictures of journalists jailed in Belarus, including Protasevich.
Since the crackdown that followed the contested Aug. 9 presidential election in Belarus, 430 journalists were arrested and 20 are still in jail in the country, according to the press advocacy group’s count.
The country ranks 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
(Reporting by Janis Laizans in Salcininkai and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)