Reporters without Borders criticize Belarusian media freedom

2010 2010-09-21T18:14:41+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

The Reporters without Borders international organization has released a statement, expressing its deep concern over the increasing harassment of Belarusian journalists ahead of the forthcoming presidential election, the press-service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists reports.

‘Harassment by the authorities is severely curtailing the already limited freedom of the Belarusian media, which are still reeling from journalist Oleg Bebenin’s mysterious death at the start of September,’ says the statement.

The international organization is especially concerned about the recent information ministry warning issued to the Narodnaya Volia independent newspaper on 13 September for allegedly “disseminating false information” about the Committee for State Control.

‘The newspaper has received four official warnings in the space of 10 months and is facing the possibility of a three-month suspension or permanent closure if the authorities take it to court.

Reporters Without Borders is afraid that article 51 of the media law, which allows the authorities to suspend newspapers after two warnings, will be used to close critical newspapers or pressure them to censor themselves,’ says the statement.

In a press release on 17 August, Reporters Without Borders had already expressed its concern about the spate of warnings received by Narodnaya Volia and another leading opposition newspaper, Nasha Niva, and the abuses arising from the new media law.          

Other methods used to hound media include denying them access to advertising. This is the case with Babruyski Kurier, a paper based in the southeastern city of Babruysk. One of the country’s oldest regional publications (founded in 1914), it is on the verge of bankruptcy because the authorities have told advertisers to boycott it. As a result of this unofficial but effective ban, it has been starved of advertising revenue and has been unable to publish since July.