OSCE blasts Belarus for crackdown on media

VIENNA, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's media freedom watchdog condemned on Friday Belarusian authorities for a clampdown on independent media.

Security police on Thursday and Friday raided homes of Belarusian reporters working for independent media supported by the European Union and briefly held several journalists.

"I condemn these targeted attacks on independent media as an unconcealed violation of OSCE commitments signed by the government of Belarus to protect freedom of the press," Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, said in a statement issued in Vienna.

"The attempt to suppress independent media is unacceptable in a 21st century European society," the statement said.

Belarus has long been criticized by the West for its human rights record, and its authoritarian image was further damaged on Tuesday, when over 100 opposition protesters were arrested during a march in central Minsk.

An opposition leader described riot police viciously beating protesters, including women, and dragging them into police vans.

Earlier on Friday, the European Union condemned the use of violence against demonstrators opposed to President Alexander Lukashenko and called for the immediate release arrested protesters.

"In order to improve relations with the European Union, the Belarusian authorities should refrain from further arrests and stop persecuting the representatives of Belarusian civil society," the statement said.

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