Norwegian PEN-center and IPA: Freedom of Expression Is Violated in Belarus
During the last two years the government of Belarus did not improve the situation of the freedom of expression and continued pressurizing journalists and writers. This is the opinion presented in the report of representatives of the Norwegian PEN-center and the International Publishers’ Association on the results of their visits to Belarus in November 2007.
The human rights activists believe that the Belarusian mass media are controlled with the aid of administrative measures with the aim to prevent wide public from familiarizing with alternative points of view.
It is emphasized in the report that the norm concerning the state registration of mass media was introduced without preliminary discussion; Belarusian editions and organizations have to obtain registration from the local authorities, who can deny registration or revoke it any time.
The human rights activists also point that the state controls the distribution of books and newspapers by the state bookstores, kiosks and the subscription system.
According to the PEN-center and IPA representatives, the independent press of Belarus ‘suffers from fines due to its professional criticism’. Besides, its access to information is restricted. The authorities also limit the development of the Belarusian language and culture.
These are some of the report’s recommendations to the Belarusian authorities: to abolish criminal persecution for defamation; to expand the legal frames for registration, distribution and licensing; to provide the society with the possibility to discuss draft laws before their adoption.
According to the report authors, the EU should not develop relations with Belarus and make it a subject of the policy of neighborliness till ‘the situation of the freedom of expression is changed to the better’.