The campaign was started on August 14. Within three days dozens of chief editors of Belarusian and foreign mass media, media persons, public figures and BAJ members signed the petition to dismiss criminal charges against Anton Surapin and to stop persecution of journalists for their professional activities.
On August 17 Anton Surapin was released under recognizance and sent to his home town Slutsk. The campaign continued, as the photographer and journalism student has stayed under the charges, unable to leave his town, or to find a room to rent in order to move from Slutsk to Minsk to prolong his studies at university (the studies are due to start in October).
People from Mahilou, Krychau, Babruysk, Smaliavichy, Svetlahorsk, Maladzechna, Klimavichy, Dziarzhynsk, Navapolatsk, Cherykau, Vaukavysk, and other places, supported the freelancer.
Foreign citizens sent their petitions straight to the prosecutor’s office and the KGB, so it’s impossible to say how many they were. The International Press Institute (IPI) immediately took part in the solidarity campaign. Among the famous foreigners who signed the petition are William Horsley, chairperson of the UK section of the European Association of Journalists; Alexey Kungurov, a Russian writer, journalist and blogger.
On September 14 all the signatures were passed on to the KGB and the General Prosecutor’s office.
“Solidarity can bring results” said Aliaksandr Koktysh, member of the BAJ Board, curator of the campaign. “Of course, one may joke, so to say – BAJ announced the campaign and three days later Anton was set free. Nevertheless, it happened so! And what I am especially glad at is that all representatives of national and regional news outlets agreed to take part in the campaign. People said: today – Anton, tomorrow – we might be in the same situation… I am absolutely sure that we would have collected more signatures, but enthusiasm started to decline after Anton was set free.”
The 20-year-old Anton Surapin, a fourth-year student at the Belarusian State University`s Journalism Institute, was arrested following a July 4 incident in which two representatives of Sweden’s ad agency Studio Total illegally flew a small plane from Lithuania to Belarus and dropped teddy bears containing pro-human rights messages. Anton was released from prison on his own recognizance but was banned from leaving his place of residence.