[JURIST] The Belarus KGB [official website] Thursday detained at least 16 journalists and searched their homes and offices for materials that allegedly libel Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile]. The Belarus Deputy Prosecutor General said that the searches related to an animated Internet cartoon that allegedly insulted Lukashenko and had been broadcast on Belsat TV [media website], a Polish-funded satellite television channel. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) [trade website] argued that the searches were retaliation for media coverage of anti-Lukashenko protests [JURIST report] in Minsk earlier this week. AP has more. BAJ has local coverage.
The US State Department severely criticized Belarus' human rights record [JURIST report] earlier this month. The UN General Assembly Third Committee, as well as the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [JURIST reports], have similarly denounced Belarus for human rights abuses. Lukashenko has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarus pending the release of all political prisoners, including opposition leader Alexander Kozulin [JURIST report].