Belarus29 April 2002
Report on press freedom violations in Belarus
RSF publishes a report about attacks on press freedom in Belarus (www.rsf.org), which it has described for several years now as among the most serious in world.
Maintenance of a Soviet-style regime there after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the authoritarian excesses of President Alexander Lukashenko since 1996 and the country’s resulting international isolation has not helped the situation. Belarus is the only country in Europe that is neither a member or even an observer at the Council of Europe, which Ukraine and Russia have both joined (in 1995 and 1996 respectively).
Freedom of information is key to any hope of democracy in Belarus. The independent media is hampered by state monopolies of printing and distribution, government pressure on TV and radio announcers, subsidies that only go to pro-government media and by a ban on funding from abroad.
The disappearance of cameraman Dimitri Zavadski in 2000 shocked the country’s journalists, as did the trial in March this year of his alleged killers which did not seriously investigate his kidnapping and left many suspicions as to who was really responsible. The campaign for the September 2001 presidential election was marked by much pressure of all kinds on publications that were critical of the authorities.
The RSF report, based on accounts gathered in Minsk this March, describes the overall media situation in Belarus, lists the main attacks on press freedom and discusses prospects for reform as part of a dialogue between Belarus and European organisations.
read the report