THE NOVAYA GAZETA SMARHONI FACES CLOSURE
On 3 February Hrodna region Economic Court ruled to stop entrepreneurs activities of Ramuald Ulan, founder of The Novaya Gazeta Smarhoni. This decision might lead to suspension of publishing of The Novaya Gazeta Smarhoni, one of the most stable independent newspapers. Ramuald Ulan has 10 days to appeal against the court decision.
Andrei Bastunets, vice-president of Belarusian Association of Journalists, comments on the court decision: “Such ruling contradicts the principles of law and creates a very dangerous precedent, which gives local authorities all the rope”.
Hrodna region economic court satisfied the suit, filed by Smarhon executive committee. The conflict between the authorities and the businessman have been developing for 2 years, when Ulan decided to broaden his business and tried to register 2 new local editions – The Novaya Gazeta Astrawtsa, and The Novaya Gazeta Ashmian. Smarhon executive committee refused to confirm the legal address of the new newspapers twice which made it impossible to register them. In December 2001 and May 2002 Hrodna region economic court recognized those refusals illegal. However, that did not make any effect on the local authorities. In November 2002, after another court hearing, Smarhon authorities initiated a counter-claim to stop activities of private entrepreneur. The authorities grounded their claim on violations of tax legislation in 2000 and 2002, 2 prosecutor warnings in 2000, and violations of the labor legislation and norms of fire security in 2002.
Ramuald Ulan is going to file a cassation appeal against the court ruling.