Associated Press Photographer Beaten In Belarus

An Associated Press photographer was beaten and detained by plainclothes security officers in Belarusian capital on Tuesday.

According to the Huffington Post, Sergei Grits was among eight journalists that were covering a protest by four opposition activists calling for a boycott of this weekend’s parliamentary elections when plainclothes security officers attacked them in downtown Minsk.

Grits said that one of the plainclothed security officers grabbed him by the neck while another punched him in the eye. The one that punched him in the eye broke his glasses and left a gash. The security officers then pushed the journalists into a van, that had no license plates, and drove them to a police station. Here the journalists were held for two hours before being released without charges or explanation, Grits said. Police deleted images from their cameras.

Alexander Lastovsky, a Minsk police spokesman, said that he could not comment on the incident.

“Such violence by police against a journalist peacefully going about his work is unacceptable and must be protested in the strongest possible terms,” said John Daniszewski, AP’s senior managing editor for international news. “We demand that the Belarus authorities look into the matter and take appropriate actions against the individuals involved.”

The authorities in Belarus have been known to show little tolerance for dissent and media freedom under President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 10 million people since 1994.

The United States and the European Union have placed economic and travel sanctions on Lukashenko’s government because of their crackdown on opposition groups and independent news media.