Independent weekly in Slonim faces eviction
The company “Partner-Slonim Ltd.”, which owns the premises rented by a local independent weekly, Hazeta Slonimskaya, requests that the office should be vacated by January 1, 2014, the press-service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists reports.
The official reason for the decision is an order by the fire inspection, which prohibited operating on the first floor of the building.
The editorial board has been working in the office since 2008. The upper floor of the building is occupied by the advertising department and a room where the newspaper is made up.
Along with the newspaper, the premises on the upper floor are rented by several other private companies, including the administration of “Partner-Slonim Ltd.” Except for the last, all of them are now facing eviction. Nevertheless, the chief editor of Hazeta Slonimskaya, Viktar Valadashchuk, doubts the decision was independent and says it was aimed against the free newspaper.
“We know that the authorities have repeatedly urged the administration of the building to get us evicted. But this did not work. In October and November, they suddenly began a comprehensive inspection of fire security; as a result, the verdict is to completely evict the entire first floor. With reference to the decision, they sent us an order – to vacate the premises by January 1,” says Viktar Valadashchuk.
Now the editor is desperately looking for new premises in order not to jeopardize the publication of the newspaper. “They may lock the doors and turn off the light. How do I explain it to the reader?” says he.
According to him, it is useless to seek the cause of the authorities’ discontent in some specific publications: “We are making the newspaper as usual. Writing how Belarusians live, how Slonim residents live. And local officials have been displeased with us since our first issue.”
Hazeta Slonimskaya has been excluded from subscription catalogs and newsagents since 2006.
In 2013, the edition twice addressed the Belposhta state-run distribution system and the local management of the Belsayuzdruk enterprise with a request to resume the distribution of the newspaper. The request was also supported by a collective letter of the newspaper’s readers (500 signatures were collected), but was eventually rejected. A similar petition to the Presidential Administration was also fruitless. The weekly is distributed through subscription at the office and at people’s residence, as well as through its own network of distributors. To date, the newspaper's circulation is about 5,500-6,000 copies.