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Belarus7 June 2003

Two more independent newspapers closed down

Reporters Without Borders protested today against the closure of two more independent newspapers by the information ministry for three months. Editors of the twice-weekly satirical newspaper Navinki learned on 3 June that they were being closed down. The weekly Ekho was prevented from coming out the following day.

"We are extremely concerned about these new closures," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "The press law permits the temporary closure of a news media after two warnings, but the authorities are using ridiculous bureaucratic pretexts to get rid of the independent press," he said.

Navinki did not learn about its closure until the company that distributes it, Belsajuzdruk, refused to distribute the latest issue on 3 June. It has still not received any official notification of its closure. The information ministry gave it a first warning on 21 May for publishing, in the same issue, "two photos of the President of Belarus with an insulting comment." On 22 May, the ministry gave a second warning about two articles published earlier in the year, in numbers 87 and 90, headlined "The press law" and "Offence to the people’s morality."

Ekho, which has managed to put out only one issue since its creation, was prevented from printing its 4 June issue, in which it had planned to include articles from the independent daily Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, which was itself closed down on 28 May.

The information ministry gave Ekho two warnings, on the pretext that it had changed its legal address, name and the subjects it writes about without re-registering with the authorities. Then, on 4 June, the head of the Krasanaya Sevzda printing works, Uladzimir Celesh, told Ekho that he was ending their contract with immediate effect, thereby preventing that day’s issue from being printed.

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