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Further press crackdowns in Belarus in time for 2006 presidential elections November 20, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I am reproducing this piece in full from the site of the laudable Belarusian Association of Journalists because it’s not possible to link to individual stories. Visiting their site now – the Belarusian-language version is more complete – makes for jaw-dropping reading as the litany of problems faced by the independent media in Belarus is listed. The latest ruse, following problems for some finding anyone to print their papers, is for the monopoly distributor to now refuse to handle a whole host of titles. Reporters without Borders have also included Belarus in a list of fifteen enemies of the internet, along with all the usual suspects: Turkmenistan, North Korea, Cuba etc. Not a good club to be in. Anyway, read on (and weep).

IFJ Warns of Ruthless Campaign to Silence Belarus Media in Presidential Election Year

November 18, 2005

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the decision of the state-owned newspaper distribution company, Belposhta, to cease distribution of privately owned papers during the Presidential election year.

Belposhta, which has a monopoly on distribution, will stop distributing the papers by subscription from January 2006, which will prevent coverage of the Presidential election that has to take place before July 2006.

“This is part of a cynical and ruthless campaign to silence independent voices in the run up to Presidential elections,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The Belarus Authorities are abusing their monopoly over the distribution system to close down what remains of Belarusian independent media.”

Independent Belarusian media have been surviving on a knife edge for years as they struggle against a litany of arbitrary closures, punitive fines, harassment and intimidation of journalists. In recent weeks the pressure on media has increased alarmingly.

At the end of September the state printing house cancelled its contract to publish the independent daily Narodnaya Vola, forcing it to move to a printer in neighbouring Russia.

Two weeks later, on 18 October, Vasil Hrodnikau, a freelance correspondent for the independent “Narodnaya Vola” daily was found dead in his house in Minsk. He died of a traumatic brain injury. His brother told media that Vasil Hrodnikau had been constantly harassed by the authorities over the past year and that he believed he was killed for his criticisms of the President Lukashenko.

Last October, freelance journalist Veronika Charkasova was stabbed to death in her apartment. She had been investigating alleged arms sales between Belarus and Iraq.

The list of media to be excluded from the state distribution system includes the Narodnaya Vola, Salidarnasc, Zhoda, BDG. Delovaya Gazieta, Rehijanalnya Gazeta and a range of regional non-governmental social and political periodical editions.

Some of the newspapers received letters informing them that due to violations of their contracts, their distribution agreements would not be renewed. Others only discovered they had been removed from the list when the Belposhta published its subscription catalogue for 2006.

“The Belarus Association of Journalists has called on journalists and media groups around the world to come to their aid,” said Arne Konig, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists. “We urge all journalists groups to send messages of support to the BAJ and protest statements to the Belarus authorities.”

The BAJ was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2004 for defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Protests should be sent to the following:
President Lukashenko, fax: (+375 17) 226-06-10)

The Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, fax: (+375 17) 222-66-65)

The Ministry of Communication and Information of the Republic of Belarus,
fax: (+375 17) 227-21-57)

The “Belposhta” Republican Unitary Enterprise, fax: (+375 17) 226-11-70).

Copies can also be sent to the Belarusian Association of Journalists
phone/fax: (+375 17) 203-63-66, 226-70-98).

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