Belarus7 August 2002
Authorities target two more independent newspapers
Reporters Without Borders today voiced its utmost concern about the fate of
the independent press in Belarus after the Minsk independent daily Nasha
Svoboda was sentenced on 2 August to pay a fine that threatens its survival
and as authorities continue with plans to prosecute the independent
newspaper Rabochy. These moves were preceded by the jail sentences imposed
in June on the editor and a journalist of the Grodno opposition newspaper
"The government succeeded in getting rid of Pagonya and now pursues its sham
justice by attacking Nasha Svoboda and Rabochy", Reporters Without Borders
secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Information Minister
Mikhail Podgainy. "We ask you to drop all these abusive proceedings against
independent newspapers. We also ask you to modify the penal code in order to
eliminate prison sentences for defamation, in particular article 367/2
concerning defamation of the President of the Republic."
On 2 August, journalist Mikhail Podolyak and his newspaper, Nasha Svoboda,
were sentenced to fines of 15 million and 100 million Belarusian rubles
respectively for libeling Anatoly Tozik, president of the
Committee for State Control. On 1 August, the day before the trial started,
authorities seized Nasha Svoboda’s computers.
Meanwhile, Rabochy editor Viktor Ivaskevich faces a possible five-year jail
sentence when he comes to trial on 11 September for allegedly defaming
President Alexander Lukashenko under article 367/2 of the penal code in a
report that appeared in a special elections issue in summer 2001. As a
result of the report, entitled "A thief belongs in prison", 40,000 copies of
the special issue were confiscated.
Previously, on 24 June, Pagonya editor Nikolay Markevitch and one of the
newspaper’s journalists, Pavel Majeyko, were sentenced to prison terms with
hard labour for allegedly defaming President Lukashenko. Their appeal is due
to be heard on 15 August.