Two BBC correspondents walked out of a Belarusian press conference Monday after officials produced detained journalist Roman Protasevich to discuss last month’s forced landing of the commercial airliner he was on.
“We have just walked out,” tweeted BBC Ukrainian correspondent Jonah Fisher. “Not taking part when he is clearly there under duress.”
“We have walked out from the presser,” confirmed video journalist Abdujalil A.
Protasevich, 26, co-founded and served as editor of the Telegram channel “The NEXTA,” which is used by critics of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to manage demonstrations and share information.
He was flying from Greece to Lithuania on May 23 when a Belarusian fighter jet forced his Ryanair flight, which had about 170 passengers on board, to land in the capital of Minsk. Protasevich was then detained.
Since then, Belarusian officials have held press conferences featuring Protasevich recanting past criticisms of Lukashenko and praising the authoritarian leader.
The blogger’s father and others have said that he has clearly been mistreated and coerced into making those statements.
Journalists at Monday’s press conference were there to get more information on the diversion of the airliner Protasevich was on and were surprised when Belarusian officials brought him out.
After the plane was forced down, President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and political leaders around the world condemned the action. Blinken called it a “shocking act” that endangered the lives of Americans and all the airliner’s passengers.
The Biden administration and the European Union both plan to sanction Belarus over the move.