STATEMENT of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) Regarding the stepping up of pressure against the independent mass media and journalists
Five non-State newspapers "Belorusskaja Delovaja Gazeta", "Dlja sluzhebnogo polzovanija", "Narodnaja volja", "Vechernij Stolin" and "Navinki" are on the edge of destruction in Belarus. Official warnings issued to these newspapers by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus can serve the basis for their closure in legal form.
Over three days on May 20 - 23 Mikhail Padhajny, Minister of information, signed five official warnings under Article 5 in the Law on Press in Belarus: The figure outnumbers the official warnings issued by the Ministry in the course of last year. According to the Belarusian Law, information medium having had received two official warnings under Article 5 in the Law on Press in Belarus can be closed.
In a number of cases the office of Prosecutor General initiated issuing official warnings to independent media. It was just at this office that "preventive talks' with Pauliuk Kanavalchyk, chief editor of "Navinki" and Aliaksandr Silich, chief editor deputy, and Maryna Koktysh, journalist of "Narodnaja volja" took place. Representatives of these newspapers were forced to give written explanations. Besides, the same office instituted criminal proceedings against the publisher of "Vecherni Stolin" and "Provintsialka" Aliaksandr Ihnatiuk under Article 369 "Insult of Authorities' Representatives" in the Criminal Code. Having had no progress in search of disappeared people, among who is our colleague, member of BAJ Dmitri Zavadski, the office of Prosecutor General deals now with looking for demerits in the work of independent media.
Factual statements make to conclude that Prosecutor General and Ministry of Information have turned out to be censorship organs. And this is a blatant violation of the Belarusian Constitution and International obligations, which the Republic of Belarus assumed.
In view of these factual statements the Belarusian Association of Journalists
• Protests against fragrant violation of freedom of expression in Belarus;
• Demands the Ministry of Information and Prosecutor General to stop exercising censorship that leads to the destruction of independent press;
• Appeals to the Belarusian community and international organizations requesting solidarity with and support of journalists and independent press in Belarus.