Belarusian journalist appears on state television

Journalist appears on state television
Relatives of the journalist said the interview was conducted under duress. Source: BELARUSKAJA TELE-RADIO CAMPANIJA
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Daily US Times: Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich has appeared in a tearful interview on state television. He was arrested in Minsk after being taken off a diverted Ryanair flight last month, which caused outrage in the western world and in Europe.

In the interview, Mr Protasevich praised President Alexander Lukashenko and confessed to organising anti-government protests, but his family say the interview was conducted under duress.

The Belarusian journalist, 26, was editor of the opposition Nexta channel on the Telegram messaging app until last year.

Last year, he was put on a list of “individuals involved in terrorist activity”.

Mass protests erupted across Belarus after long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko, described as Europe’s last dictator, claimed victory in a 9 August presidential election widely condemned as rigged, and a crackdown followed.

The protests have been curbed and opposition leaders have been sent into exile or prison.

In the interview broadcast on state television on Thursday evening, Mr Protasevich admitted to attempting to topple Alexander Lukashenko and said that he was speaking to the television channel by choice.

Mr Protasevich said that he had criticised President Lukashenko a lot but “began to understand that he was doing the right thing and I certainly respect him”.

He burst into tears at the end of the interview and said he hoped one day to marry and have children.

His father told AFP news agency that it pained him to watch the interview.

He said: “I know my son very well and I believe that he would never say such things. They broke him and forced him to say what was needed.”

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