Armenian-Americans protest Belarus/Azerbaijan crackdown on journalist reporting on Artsakh

The Armenians of Washington and New York held protests in front of Belarus’ diplomatic missions in Washington, DC and New York City demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the Russian-Israeli blogger Alexandr Lapshin.

The protests staged on Sunday were organized by the Armenian National Committees of Greater Washington (ANC of GW) and New York (ANC of New York).

Mr. Lapshin currently faces extradition from Belarus to Azerbaijan for traveling and reporting from Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and speaking critically of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s dictatorial regime. The gathered voiced their discontent and outrage over Azerbaijan’s continuous assault against free media and journalists over the past several years, with Mr. Lapshin being the latest victim.

“We condemn in the strongest terms any attempt to silence or intimidate journalists and individuals who travel to the free and independent Republic of Artsakh,” said ANCA Eastern Region Chairman Steve Mesrobian. “Azerbaijan and Belarus are two of Europe’s last remaining dictatorships and for us it is absolutely unacceptable to silence journalists for speaking up about human rights offences or for expressing their support for the free and democratic Republic of Artsakh. We also call upon the United States government to take a strong stance on this issue in solidarity with the people of Nagorno Karabakh Republic, our democratic and reliable ally in the region.”

The Washington DC protest was organized in coordination with the ARF Sebouh Committee and the AYF Ani Chapter. Similar protests have taken place at Belarus Embassies around the world.

“We have gathered here today in solidarity with Mr. Lapshin and with hundreds of other journalists who have been silenced by President Aliyev’s dictatorial regime,” said AYF Ani Chapter Chairman Aram Tramblian. “Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of any democracy. With Mr. Lapshin’s extradition, the Azerbaijani government hopes to quash future free and unfettered reporting about Artsakh – a dangerous precedent which we simply cannot allow.”