Miklos Haraszti, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, sent a request to senior Belarus officials urging them not to close down the daily Narodnaia Volia
OSCE media watchdog protests closure of independent Belarus daily Narodnaia Volia
VIENNA, 30 September 2005 - Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, sent a request to senior Belarus officials urging them not to close down the daily Narodnaya Volya.
The only independent daily in Belarus, which represents 65 per cent of the non-governmental print media circulation in the country, is to go out of business on Monday, 3 October. The two state distributors and the publishing house have all at the same time decided to cancel their contracts, citing different reasons.
"I view this development as unprecedented in the OSCE region," wrote Haraszti in letters to Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov and Information Minister Vladimir Rusakevich. "If this happens, Belarus will lose two-thirds of its independent press, its only independent daily."
"I strongly believe that the closure of Narodnaya Volya would be a major setback in the development of the free press in Belarus and a great loss for Belarusian society. I have asked the authorities to do everything in their power to stop this from happening," he added.
On 28 September Narodnaya Volya received notifications from the state monopolies in newspaper distribution Belsoyzpechat and Mingorsoyzpechat, as well as from the publishing house Krasnaya Zvezda, all informing it that they unilaterally cancelled contracts with the newspaper. Reasons cited: unsubstantiated claims of violations of the laws; lack of public demand for the newspaper; outstanding payment of 1000 Euros.
The closure of Narodnaya Volya comes when the paper has already paid more than 70 per cent of an enormously high fine of 100,000,000 Belarusian roubles (around 38,000 Euros), levied in a libel suit filed by a local politician, based on the defamation provision of the civil code.