Afrique Ameriques Asie Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Belarus28 December 2005

Law to punish “discrediting Belarus” becomes law on 30 December

Reporters Without Borders condemned a new law due to come into effect on 30 December 2005 that will punish “discrediting Belarus abroad”, three months before the presidential elections on 19 March 2006.

President Alexander Lukashenko put his signature to the new amendments on 15 December, a week after the law was passed by parliament’s upper house. Members of the lower house of parliament unanimously voted for the new law on 2 December.

Journalists, as well as candidates for the presidential elections, come under the reach of the new law.

Parliament brought forward the date of presidential elections, originally scheduled for July 2006.

6 December 2005

Threat of prison against journalists who discredit the government

read in russian

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern after parliament adopted a new law on 2 December imposing heavy prison sentences of up to three years on any citizen discrediting Belarus abroad.

Head of the Belarus KGB, Stepan Sukhorenko, confirmed that the law would also apply to Belarus journalists working for international media or organisations as well as to foreign journalists.

“The adoption of these new amendments deals a deadly blow to a press that is already suffering severe tyranny. The vague wording of this law makes any critical action illegal and liable to disproportionate sentences,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“The Minsk authorities are prepared to do anything to gag the slightest dissident voice, whether it comes from Belarus citizens or local and foreign journalists.

“The press will be well and truly gagged and this blow will leave the field clear for the government press, with just a few months to go before presidential elections,” said Reporters Without Borders.

Members of the lower house of parliament voted for the law at its first reading on 25 November, by 94 to 1. They officially approved it at the second reading, on 2 December, by 97 votes to 4.

Stepan Sukhorenko specified after the vote that foreign journalists who attempted to infringe the law would immediately be deported to their own countries and told Belarus journalists to observe the new amendments, advising them to “read the law and reflect on it”.

The law lays down, among other things, that anyone joining an unregistered or banned political party will be liable to up to two years in prison and people gathering to “take part in street demonstrations”, up to three years.

Supplying a foreign state or international organisations with “false information on the country’s political, economic, social or military situation” or “urging a state or organisation to act to the detriment of the authorities” would be liable for up to three years in prison.

Independent Belarus analyst, Sergey Balykin, pointed out that the new amendments bore a striking resemblance to “Article 67 of the criminal code of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Byelorussia of 1961” entitled “Anti-Soviet campaigns and propaganda”. Violation of this law put the offender at risk of a sentence from six months to seven years in prison for “defaming the Soviet system”.

Stepan Sukhorenko said however that he considered this law vital to avert popular uprisings and to prevent “destructive forces” from using the presidential campaign “to take power and change the constitutional regime”, as happened in Georgia (2003), in Ukraine (2004) and in Kyrgyzstan (2005).

The upper chamber of parliament will vote on the law on 8 December. One approved, it could quickly come into force after being signed by President Alexander Lukashenko.

  In this country
6 March - Belarus
Call for end to unofficial ban on foreign journalists
26 February - Belarus
Judge orders two issues of cultural magazine seized and destroyed
29 January - Belarus
In show of bad faith, government again refuses to issue press accreditation to Radio Racyja journalists
27 November - Belarus
Amid signs of tentative liberalisation, government urged to do more and to resist temptation to control Internet
26 September - Belarus
Media coverage of election campaign ignores political debates and opposition

in the annual report
Belarus - Annual Report 2008
Belarus - Annual report 2007
Belarus - 2006 Annual report

Europe press releases
4 June - Kosovo
Rrokum TV station still excluded by national broadcasting network
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
2 June - Turkey
Woman journalist held for past five weeks on baseless charge of link to armed group
2 June - Russia
Journalist seeks asylum in Finland after being convicted for prison torture articles
29 May - France
Regrettable decision by appeal court to lift ban on magazine only if offending photo is covered up

5 February 2009 - Bulgaria
“Resignation or resistance, Bulgaria’s embattled press hesitates”
28 January 2009 - Russia
Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor
27 June 2008 - Turkey
Investigation report into the detention of journalist Haci Bogatekin, imprisoned for more than two months and facing ten and a half years in prison

Sign the petitions
Jusuf Ruzimuradov

Europe archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives