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Belarus1 June 2005

President Lukashenko orders independent news media to change their names

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders today condemned a decree issued by President Alexander Lukashenko (photo) yesterday banning all privately-owned news media from using the words "national" or "Belarus" in their names. The decree, which does not apply to the state media, gives offending newspapers three months to comply by registering under a new name.

"This is a bit too obvious," the press freedom organization said. "The sole aim of this presidential decree is to sabotage the few remaining independent news media in Belarus. Day after day, the government continues to find new ways to curb press freedom and harass news media that are not subservient to President Lukashenko."

Reporters Without Borders added: "In clearly choosing to discriminate against the privately-owned media, Lukashenko seems to have abandoned any concern for legal subtleties and has taken an undemocratic decision with the sole aim of crushing press diversity. Once again he unfortunately justifies his place of honour in the Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom predators."

The newspapers that will have to change their names include Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, Belorussky Rynok, Belorusskaya Gazeta and Natsionalnaya Ekomicheskaya Gazeta. Not only will they have to spend money to re-register, they will also have to deal with the technical problems of changing their logo and layout, and their banking details. And they could also lose readers who fail to recognize their usual newspaper by its new name.

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