Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

OSCE media freedom watchdog urges Minsk to drop charges against journalist Surapin

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative on freedom of the media, called on the Belarusian authorities to drop charges against young photographer Anton Surapin, who has been held in custody for nearly four weeks after publishing pictures of teddy bears dropped by Swedish nationals during an illegal flight over Belarus.

Mr. Surapin has already been charged with assisting illegal entry over the July 4 incident.

In a statement, Ms. Mijatovic said that she was "surprised and alarmed" that Mr. Surapin had been charged with a criminal offense. "I hope that he will soon be set free and cleared of all charges brought against him," Ms. Mijatovic 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 OSCE media freedom watchdog said that earlier this year she had called on the Belarusian authorities to end their pressure on the media and annul all sentences against independent journalists.