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Belarus30 May 2008

Government continues to hamper Polish radio station broadcasting to Belarus

Reporters Without Borders condemns the Belarusian foreign ministry’s refusal on 28 May to issue accreditation to reporter Alyaksey Minchonak of Radio Racyja, a station based in the Polish city of Bialystok that broadcasts to Belarus. This latest obstacle for the station comes a month after the police raided its Minsk bureau and seized equipment.

“The authorities are continuing to harass Radio Racyja, one of the few independent news outlets in Belarus,” the press freedom organisation said. “We call for an end to this administrative persecution, which is motivated solely by political considerations.”

Minchonak was summoned to the foreign ministry on 28 May and was told his request for accreditation had been turned down on the grounds that he had already begun to work without permission.

The decision was “absurd,” Minchonak told Reporters Without Borders. “One the one hand, the foreign ministry targets us for working without accreditation, while on the other hand it continues to refuse our requests.”

The police still have not returned the five computers and other equipment they seized in the raid on Radio Racyja’s Minsk bureau a month ago. The pretext for the raid was the station’s alleged role in creating animated cartoons posted on the Internet in 2005, which were deemed to have insulted President Alexandre Lukashenko.

Radio Racyja was launched in 1999 by the Polish government and the Dutch embassy in Warsaw. Its repeated requests for accreditation in Belarus have always been rejected by the foreign ministry. It broadcasts from Poland and has a network of correspondents in Belarus who work without accreditation. It often criticises the government, unlike Belarus’ own state-controlled radio stations.

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