European Federation of Journalist Demands to Stop Tight Control of Belarusian Media
The text of the EFJ declaration according to Belarusian Association of Journalists:
The Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Journalists, notes with grave concern the serious deterioration of the media situation in Belarus over the last few years and especially before and after 2004 Parliamentary election and Referendum, as a result of which the appropriate article of the Belarusian Constitution was changed to contain no terms’ restrictions for the President Lukashenka. During this time the number of independent media outlets has been rapidly declining and the number of administrative warnings and suspensions of independent media issued by the Ministry of Information has been growing.
The state media, controlled by the Government are overwhelmingly dominating the market. All national, regional and cable TV channels and radio stations are state owned or, even if are commercial ones, are tightly controlled. The Government heavily subsidizes the state owned electronic and print media, which became Soviet like propaganda and brain washing tools. The few remaining independent print and Internet media are struggling to survive.
Harsh libel and insult laws are established solely to protect the oppressive regime of Aleksandr Lukashenka against critical or investigating journalism. Belarus is the only country in the OSCE region where people are serving prison sentences for insulting the dignity of the Head of State. This legislation is effectively contributing today to self-censorship and lack of free debate in the media and society.
Opposing the broad powers given to the Government by the current Media Law and the abusive libel and insult legislation, the EFJ Annual Meeting denounces as unacceptable any Government plans or proposed amendments to the new media Law under preparation, which will make it and other legislation even more oppressive on independent journalists and media outlets in Belarus.
The Annual Meeting of the EFJ strongly supports the brave struggle for freedom of expression and independent journalism fought by our colleagues working in independent press and the Belarusian Association of Journalists, BAJ.
“The Journalist Unions represented at the EFJ Annual Meeting demand that the Lukashenka regime in Belarus ends its intrusive control of the media field. The Belarusian people is in urgent need of reforms in media legislation, which represents common European standards of media freedom, respects independent journalism and secures freedom of expression in the Belarusian society.”
Bilbao, April 4, 2005.