The Volny Chas Independent Newspaper Denied Printing Services
During the last 7 days three printing presses refused to provide services to the Volny Chas independent newspaper of Homel region: Tytul Company from Rechytsa, Palesdruk printing press from Homel, and Svetach printing press from Minsk. All three printing presses refer to either their limited capacity, or to equipment problems. However, the newspaper founder and editor-in-chief Uladzimir Verbavikow believes, the refusals are politically motivated.
In the beginning of last week Uladzimir Verbavikow contacted Rechytsa Tytul enterprise, but its director Sviatlana Drahun refused to set up a contract under the pretext of limited capacity of the printing press. Meanwhile, the company employees do not confirm this information (Last September the company management broke the agreement with the Region-Vesti independent newspaper on the ground of "the seasonal overload due to printing of calendars").
Mr. Verbavikow tried to sign a contract with Palesdruk printing press in Homel. Head of Production Department Tatsiana Svil agreed in the beginning. However, after a short consultation with the company director she stated the printing press had just received a rush order to print school diaries and cancelled the preliminary agreement.
The next attempt was to cooperate with the Svetach printing press in Minsk. The newspaper had used the services of that printing press before. After conclusion of the preliminary agreement, the newspaper board purchased the paper and transferred money to the Svetach account. However, when on 26 April Uladzimir Verbavikow personally visited the company, its general director Vital Verchak stated they were not going to print the Volny Chas. Neither the director, nor the company employees could give a sound explanation of the reasons for the decision.
Verbavikow was informed Svetach had already printed about 50% of the newspaper circulation and would bear material losses due to the cancelled contract. The editor-in-chief got back the newspaper layout with previously cutout details about the printing press. "It looked as if the authorities held a special seminar in all printing presses informing the staff which newspapers could be printed and which could not", – told Uladzimir Verbavikow to the press-service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The latest issue of the Volny Chas came out in August of 2003. The newspaper has not been published since then for financial reasons.