VIENNA, 8 August 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today asked Belarusian authorities to drop charges against Anton Suryapin, who faces up to seven years in prison for uploading photos of teddy bears that had been released by plane into Belarus.
“I am surprised and alarmed that Anton Suryapin has been indicted for uploading teddy bear photos. I hope that he will soon be set free and cleared of all charges brought against him,” Mijatović said. “I further hope that the ‘teddy bear case’ is not the latest attempt to suppress freedom of expression in Belarus using dubious criminal charges.”
The Representative three months ago called on the Belarusian authorities to stop persecuting the media and annul all sentences against independent journalists (http://www.osce.org/fom/90394).
Suryapin, who runs the Belarusian News Photos website (www.bnp.by), was detained on 13 July as part of an investigation into the air drop of hundreds of teddy bears pinned with press freedom messages over the town of Ivyanets, Belarus in early July.
On 7 August, the Press Centre of the State Security Committee published information that a criminal case was launched against Suryapin under Article 371, Part 3 for “organized illegal crossing of the border” and Article 6, Part 16 for “complicity in the crime.” He faces up to seven years in prison.