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Belarus19 September 2003

Journalists protest attacks on press freedom

Reporters Without Borders called on the Belarus authorities today to stop their systematic destruction of the country’s independent media and said it was very worried about the worsening press freedom situation. The call came as the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) staged a one-day protest to focus attention on independent newspapers forced to close.

"Privately-owned newspapers in Belarus have been under threat this year as never before," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "At least 10 have been suspended, prevented from printing copies or been refused official registration. The authorities have been extremely cunning about bureaucratic harassment and have used absurd legal manoeuvres to stop the appearance of papers that refuse to carry the propaganda of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

"They are especially hard on those who have supported the Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, the country’s biggest circulation independent daily, suspended in May, by printing its articles in their own pages," Ménard said.

The authorities have also targeted media support organisations such as IREX/Promedia and Internews, depriving many papers of vital computer resources and documentation.

The BAJ protest included a round-table debate, the award of a prize and a photo exhibition.

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