Pavel Sheremet

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Pavel Sheremet
Born c. 1971
Minsk, Belarus
Nationality Belarus
Occupation Journalist
Known for

dissident journalism,

1997 imprisonment
Awards

CPJ International Press Freedom Award (1998)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Prize for Journalism and Democracy (2001)

Pavel Sheremet (born c. 1971 in Minsk) is a Belarusian journalist who was imprisoned by the government of Belarus, sparking an international incident between Belarus and Russia. The New York Times has described him as "known for his crusading reports about political abuses in Belarus"[1] and "a thorn in the side of Lukashenko's autocratic government".[2] He was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists' International Press Freedom Award in 1999 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Prize for Journalism and Democracy in 2002.

Background[edit]

From 1994 to April 1995, Sheremet was the anchor and producer of Prospekt, a weekly news and analysis program on Belarus state television. The program was banned by Lukashenko one week before a referendum to increase the president's powers.[3]

Sheremet then became editor-in-chief of the Belarusian newspaper Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta. The same year, he also began working for the Russian public television company ORT, and was named its Minsk bureau chief in 1996.[3] Because of increasing control of Belarusian media by the Lukashenko government, Russian television was often the primary resource of Belarusian citizens for alternative news.[3]

Border-crossing incident[edit]

On 22 July 1997, Sheremet, along with an ORT cameraman and their drivers, filmed himself crossing illegally from Belarus to Lithuania and back again to show the ease with which smugglers could cross the border. Lukashenko's government was in the midst of an anti-smuggling initiative, and had only recently ordered new troops to the borders. Sheremet and his companions were detained by a border patrol after jumping a fence to film unguarded areas.[3] Sheremet and one crew member, Dmitry Zavadsky, were later charged with illegal border crossing, "exceeding their professional rights as journalists", and participating in a conspiracy.[3]

Russian authorities protested the arrests, which led to what BBC News called a "public row" between the two nations,[4] with Russian President Boris Yeltsin cancelling a scheduled trip to Belarus.[5] On 18 January 1998, Sheremet and Zavadsky were sentenced to two years' imprisonment and eighteen months' imprisonment, respectively,[5] but given suspended sentences and a "nominal" fine of $15 USD.[6]

Further journalistic career[edit]

In November 1997, Sheremet was one of the signatories of Charter Ninety-Seven, a pro-democracy manifesto demanding an end to "the infringement of basic human rights and liberties by the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko". Sheremet also acted as the movement's spokesman.[7]

In 1999, he conducted a rare television interview with Naina Yeltsin, which The New York Times criticized as "indulgent" and "[doing] its best to present Mrs. Yeltsin in a sympathetic light"; Sheremet's station ORT was largely controlled by oligarch Boris A. Berezovsky, a Yeltsin ally.[1]

Sheremet's partner and former co-defendant Dmitry Zavadsky disappeared on 7 July 2000, failing to arrive for a meeting at the Minsk airport with Sheremet. Sheremet accused the Belarusian authorities of having arranged his forced disappearance in retaliation for his reporting,[8] later alleging that he had been informed of government "death squads" by former Belarusian General Prosecutor Oleg Bazhelko.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1995, the Belarus PEN Center gave Sheremet its Adamovich Prize, naming him the best television reporter in Belarus.[3]

In November 1998, Sheremet was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists,[3] "an annual recognition of courageous journalism".[10] Because Sheremet was denied permission to travel to New York City to attend the scheduled ceremony with fellow winners Ruth Simon, Goenawan Mohamad, Gustavo Gorriti, and Grémah Boucar, the CPJ held a special ceremony in Minsk on 8 December to present his award.[11]

On 22 April 2002, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly announced Sheremet as the winner of its 2002 Prize for Journalism and Democracy, which he would share with Austrian television journalist Friedrich Orter, cited for his human rights reporting in the Balkans and Afghanistan. The award cited the pair as having "promoted OSCE principles on human rights, democracy and the unimpeded flow of information". The two split a $20,000 USD prize.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Michael R. Gordon (27 September 1999). "Under Fire, Yeltsin Is Defended By His Wife". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Michael R. Gordon (9 October 1997). "Reporter for Russian TV Freed By Belarus, Easing Tensions". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "1998 Press Freedom Awards – Sheremet". Committee to Protect Journalists. 1998. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Trial of Russian journalists in Belarus postponed". BBC News. 18 December 1997. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Two Belarussian journalists sentenced for border violations". BBC News. 28 January 1998. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Journalists Lose in Court". The New York Times. 25 March 1998. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Belarus government accused of human rights abuses". BBC News. 11 November 1997. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Cameraman disappears in Belarus". 8 July 2000. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  9. ^ "Belarus protests spotlight disappeared". BBC News. 7 September 2001. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  10. ^ "CPJ International Press Freedom Awards 2011". Committee to Protect Journalists. 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "CPJ Presents Award to Pavel Sheremet in Belarus". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 15 December 1998. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy in 2002 goes to Friedrich Orter and Pavel Sheremet". Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 22 April 2002. Retrieved 28 January 2012.