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Belarus16 November 2006

Court upholds three-month suspension for cultural magazine

On 8 November, the Belarus supreme court for economic affairs rejected an appeal by the cultural magazine Arche against its three-month suspension, with the result that it will not be able to resume publishing until 19 December. The Belarusian state postal service has nonetheless warned Arche that if its next issue is not published by 18 December, it will be removed from postal service’s distribution list.

“This decision will in practice deprives us of our subscribers in 2007, but we will continue to operate,” said Arche editor Valer Bulhakau. The October and November issues are available on Arche’s website.

But journalist Valentin Akoudovich predicted that the magazine would not recover. “First they removed it from the news stands. Then from the bookshops. And finally they banned it from publishing,” he said.


22 November 2006

Information ministry suspends opposition monthly

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Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the information ministry’s suspension of the monthly history magazine Arche yesterday on the grounds that the September issue violated the terms of its licence by including political articles. Arche is supposed to limit itself to historical content.

“We voice our support for Arche’s editor and we urge the information minister to reconsider his decision,” the press freedom organisation said. “The distinction between historical and political articles is specious and is just meant to mask an act of censorship.”

The September issue cover photo shows police dispersing an anti-government demonstration in March. One of its articles is a detailed account of a 1995 crackdown on opposition parliamentarians who objected to referendum imposed by President Alexander Lukashenko that would have made Russian one of the country’s official languages.

Arche’s editor, Valer Bulhakau, intends to appeal against its closure. Created in 1997, the magazine has often broached sensitive issues and criticised the Belarusian authorities. As it is an opposition magazine, it cannot be sold and is distributed by volunteers. The editor has repeatedly requested authorisation to cover politics but has had no success.




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