IREX reports deteriorated situation with the freedom of speech in Belarus
The American Center for Exchange and International Research (IREX) reports the deteriorated situation with the freedom of speech in Belarus last year. This information is provided in the "Index of media stability in 2004". The "Index" offers an assessment of the development of the media in the 20 countries of Eurasia. The report assesses the freedom of speech, pluralism of the media available to the public, standards of professional journalism, media stability and efficiency of the institutes that support the independent media, says the Charter-97 press service.
Last year the Ministry of Information of Belarus suspended the activity of 25 newspapers for "minor technical violations" in the opinion of experts. With the help of presidential decrees, new norms and unofficial instructions, the government deprived the independent media of the possibility to obtain and distribute news and earn money", says the report. Furthermore, the central and regional authorities prevent "problem journalists" from getting accreditation, and unofficially forbid printers to print opposition newspapers.
"At the same time the Constitution of Belarus guarantees the freedom of speech, the authorities in fact permanently persecute those whose words do not agree with the state policy", says the "Index of media stability in 2004". "Draft laws show that access to the Internet will be restricted. Also, a state public council for media control may be created", argue American experts. Last year the greatest progress among the countries that are investigated has been made by Ukraine.
BelaPAN information. IREX – an international non-profit making organization that is dedicated to education, independent media, development of the Internet, and civil community projects. Created in 1968, IREX runs 40 programs in more than 50 countries and has offices in 17 countries. The IREX office in Belarus was closed down in the summer 2003 after the Foreign Ministry did not renew the accreditation term.