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Belarus5 August 2008

Much tougher restrictions on media in new law signed by president

President Alexander Lukashenko has just signed an extremely restrictive media bill into law. Approved by parliament in mid-June, it was sent to Lukachenko in mid-July for his signature. It will now take effect in six months.

“We are extremely worried about the evolution of the press freedom situation in Belarus,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This law is an additional step in the eradication of the independent media. It also enables the authorities to step up their control of the Internet. By signing this bill, President Lukashenko has legalised censorship in a country where the media are already under close surveillance.”

The authorities did not say when Lukashenko signed the bill. Lawyers representing the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) suspect that the legal deadline for its signature had already expired.

The law will restrict press freedom even more by imposing new regulations on online media, restricting foreign investment in the Belarusian press and making it easier for the authorities to shut down media.

The head of the BAJ said: “The fact that this bill was signed by the president despite many international objections is yet further evidence of the Belarusian authorities’ refusal to compromise on the media. This is an area in which they want total control, regardless of what Belarusians and the international community want.”

See these recent releases for more information on the adoption of this bill:

- Tough new media law only needs president’s signature

- Media bill approved by lower house on second reading

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