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Belarus10 August 2007

Parliamentary committee refuses to reexamine article of law used to persecute media

Reporters Without Borders condemns the parliamentary human rights and media committee’s decision on 3 August to reject a request from the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) that it should consider whether article 10 of the media law violates articles 33 and 34 of the constitution.

Article 10 of the media law requires news media to register with the local authorities where their premises are located. For some years, the local authorities have been using the article to silence independent and opposition media by blocking their registration.

“The chances of article 10 now being examined are virtually zero after the parliamentary committee’s refusal,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Yet the article is routinely used by local authorities to obstruct the activities of news media that are considered a nuisance. The authorities claim it is just a division of responsibilities between the central government and regions, but in practice it is a tool for persecuting the media.”

The newspaper Den was forced to close in 2005 after the relevant authorities refused to give it the required authorisation. This year, the weeklies Nasha Niva and Vitebsky Kuryer have also been threatened with closure after being refused permits.

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