Statement of the public association Belarusian Association of Journalists regarding the interruption of Narodnaya Volya issuing
August 4 2004 the newsprint of the newspaper Narodnaya Volya was arrested in Minsk-based publishing house “Krasnaya Zvezda.” The director of the publishing house was given a written direction to suspend the publishing of Narodnaya Volya until the editors will pay off about $32500 to the former head of the National State TV and Radio Company Egor Rybakov and the entrepreneur Sergey Atroshchenko as it was sentenced at two court trials.
A day before court officers distrained the whole property of the editors, including the editorial office.
There is no doubt that the concern about moral damages – especially the ones’ of Mr. Rybakov, who is being incarcerated in KGB remand jail – was not the main reason for the action of court officers. Situation of Narodnaya Volya has an evident political basis – an intention to destroy a popular independent edition. Possibly, the hurry of state agencies can be explained with the starting election campaign that will aggravate political and ideological confrontation of various social groups including the authorities and the press.
Narodnaya Volya is a wide tribune for the representation of Belarusian democratic forces. It reflects the most significant events in the country and abroad. The newspaper pays a constant attention to undisclosed disappearances of famous politicians and journalists. Particularly, in one of the latest numbers (#142, August 3 2004) Narodnaya Volya published an article concerning the implication of some high standing officials in the disappearance of the general Yury Zakharenko, opposition leader Viktor Ganchar and his associate, the entrepreneur Anatoly Krasovsky. Did this publication become a last straw for Belarusian authorities?
We express our protest regarding the wrecking of Narodnaya Volya issuing schedule. Actions aimed at preventing the newspaper's issuing violate the rights of subscribers and other readers of Narodnaya Volya, bereave the society of the possibility to use alternative sources of information and in result deprive the citizens of a constitutional right to access and disseminate information.
We call political parties and other public organizations to express the solidarity with Narodnaya Volya and protest against a gross infringement of speech freedom in our country.
We ask our colleague journalists from Belarus and other countries to provide a corporative support to Narodnaya Volya editors and inform their readers, listeners and viewers about the issue.
We point the attention of international governmental and non-governmental organizations to yet another obvious violation of the right for free information access and dissemination, which is one of the most fundamental human rights.
We demand from Belarusian authorities the fulfillment of international legal obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of speech freedom. Not having independent sources of information we will never be able to build a democratic state and create free and prosperous society.
We call Sergey Atroshchenko an Egor Rybakov, who brought action against Narodnaya Volya, to give up their indefatigable financial demand. By your hands they are trying to destroy the most popular newspaper in the country. Think about the future!
Passed by BAJ Board of Directors, August 5 2004
Dear friends! Please, address your protests to the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus (220016, Minsk, ul. K. Marksa, 38; tel./fax +375 017 2223503) notifying Narodnaya Volya editors (tel./fax +375 017 2066871; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Belarusian Association of Journalists (te./fax +375 017 2236366; e-mail: email@example.com)