2 February 1998


Press laws amended

Incident details

legal action

(WAN/IFEX) - On 20 December 1997, amendments to both the Law on the Press
and Other Media and the Administrative Offence Code were passed by the
Council of the Republic of Belarus. On 8 January these amendments were
signed by Alexander Lukashenko, President of the Republic. While
acknowledging that several of the amendments are minor improvements on the
original bill, which was rejected by the Council in November, WAN is greatly
concerned that the overriding effect of these provisions will be to further
impede the freedom of the press in Belarus. WAN is particularly worried
about the wide-ranging powers that have been vested in the State Committee
on the Press: a non-independent, state-appointed body. The recent
amendments make this committee the ultimate arbiter of most matters
concerning the press--a situation which further expands what is already one
of the most restrictive press laws in Europe.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • drawing their attention to the following specific amendments to the press
    law which constitute a blatant attack on the freedom of independent media:
    creating stricter registration requirements for domestic publications;
    investing the State Committee on the Press with the power to declare
    registrations invalid; widening criminal libel laws to include having
    "smeared the honor and dignity of the President" as an offense; prohibiting
    the import and export of publications thought to damage the "political and
    economic interests of the public"; expanding the list of contents which
    newspapers are legally required to publish; creating an arbitrary
    accreditation system for foreign journalists
  • reminding them that these amendments are tantamount to government
    censorship, that they pose a genuine threat to the freedom of the press, and
    that they are in violation of all international norms of free expression,
    such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights
  • telling them that these amendments can do nothing but restrict Belarus'
    independent media at home and damage its reputation overseas
  • urging them to reconsider their attitude towards the press and do
    everything in their power to ensure that Belarus's restrictive press laws
    are repealed
  • asking that citizens of Belarus be able to exercise their right to free
    expression without government interference

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Alexander Lukashenko
    Minsk 220010
    Belarus Republic
    Fax: +375 172 23 58 25 / 22 38 72 / 22 32 84 / 26 06 10

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    World Association of Newspapers
    7 Rue Geoffroy St. Hilaire
    75005 Paris
    contact_us (@) wan.asso.fr
    Fax:+33 14 742 4948

    IFEX members working in this country 1

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