Sat, 31 Jul 2021

DUBLIN, Ireland - Ireland has spoken out against actions taken by the government in Belarus, particularly the 23 May hijacking of a Ryanair plane, and the detention and ill-treatment of journalists in the country.

The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin has also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega who were forcibly taken from the Ryanair plane after it was diverted under military escort to Belarus.

Martin was speaking at the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society in Nicosia in Cyprus on Friday.

The purpose of the conference was for Ministers across Europe to agree on actions to address the rapid technological changes in the media and information environment and their resultant impacts on democracy and freedom of expression. The conference also agreed actions around reinforcing the protections afforded to journalists and other media actors engaged in work that is instrumental for the healthy operation of democracy.

"Ireland is deeply concerned regarding the situation of media freedoms in Belarus. Independent journalists and media must be allowed to conduct their work free from harassment, intimidation, and fear. I reiterate Ireland's call for the Belarusian authorities to end the repression and restore fundamental rights and freedoms," Martin told the conference.

"We welcome the decision of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to investigate this incident, but Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega now languish in detention in Belarus. Ireland is deeply concerned for their welfare given the numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in detention received by UN Special Rapporteurs. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those unjustly detained, including political prisoners and media workers."

The Irish minister also emphasised Ireland's support for measures around the protection of freedom of expression in the face of evolving digital technologies.

"Ireland welcomes the adoption of this resolution that supports the right to form, hold and express an opinion without undue interference, along with its corollaries of freedom of information and media freedom, which is crucial for the fulfilment and protection of all other human rights. Ireland recognises the importance of freedom of expression for a democratic society and supports a strengthening of safeguards against adverse impacts arising from the use of digital technology," she said.

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