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Belarus29 January 2009

In show of bad faith, government again refuses to issue press accreditation to Radio Racyja journalists

Reporters Without Borders urges the Belarusian authorities to reverse their decision to refuse to issue press accreditation to two Minsk-based Belarusian journalists employed by Radio Racyja, a station based in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

“The government is acting with extraordinary bad faith,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It says it wants to make it easier for the media to operate in Belarus but it harasses them constantly. The situation is absurd. Under a new law that takes effect on 8 February, the foreign media are required to obtain accreditation, but the authorities are making it impossible for them to comply with the law’s provisions, pushing them into illegality.”

The two Radio Racyja journalists were refused accreditation for the second time on 26 January by the foreign ministry on the grounds they had already been working in Belarus without accreditation. The two journalists, who asked not to be identified, said they were being unfairly accused and planned to renew their accreditation request. Radio Racyja has been repeatedly harassed in the past year. National security agents searched its Minsk bureau. Several journalists were arrested and equipment was confiscated. Journalist Alyaksey Minchonak was denied accreditation. Finally, Radio Racyja journalist Ivan Roman and the editor of the magazine Polski na Uchodzstwie, Ihar Bantsar, were arrested in early October to prevent them from covering a demonstration on 14 October.

Roman’s arrest was carried out at his home by plain-clothes police, who accused him of making “filthy comments.” The press was not allowed to cover his trial on 10 October.

Jointly founded in Warsaw in 1999 by the Polish government and the Dutch embassy, Radio Racyja’s Belarusian-language broadcasts are one of the few sources of independent news and information in Belarus, which was ranked 154th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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