16 March 1999


CPJ condemns threats against independent newspapers

Incident details


(CPJ/IFEX) - CPJ is deeply concerned about the recent threat to close
independent newspapers for their coverage of the opposition Central
Electoral Committee's attempts to organize presidential elections in May
this year.

**Updates IFEX alerts of 3 March and 18 February 1999**

At a 15 February 1999 press conference, Michael Podgainy, chairman of
Belarusian Press Committee, announced that the press committee had
official warnings to six independent newspapers, of which he named five:
"Belarusskaya Delovaya Gazeta", "Svobodnie Novosti", "Naviny", "Narodnya
Volya", and "Pahonya". The sixth newspaper to receive a warning was
Niva". The press committee's actions came in response to the newspapers'
publication of the opposition Central Electoral Committee's announcement
that, in accordance with the 1994 Constitution, presidential elections
scheduled to be held on 16 May. The press committee also issued a
warning to
the independent newspaper "Imya" for a 4 February article titled
Dangerous Zone," by Irina Khalip, the paper's editor in chief, who
on the opposition Central Electoral Committee's activities. According to
Belarusian press law, a second warning to these newspapers could lead to
their closure.

In his official warning, Podgainy stated that the seven newspapers'
of the upcoming presidential elections amounts to inciting the overthrow
the state. The elections are being organised by former members of the
Supreme Soviet, which President Lukashenko disbanded in 1996, following
referendum for the acceptance of a new constitution. This process, on
basis of which the 1996 Constitution (which extends Lukashenko's
to 2001) was accepted and the 13th Supreme Soviet subsequently
violated Belarus's rule of law as well as its procedural norms. These
illegal actions prompted an international outrcry. To this day, much of
international community continues to view the 1994 Constitution as the
legitimate constitution and the 13th Supreme Soviet as the legitimate
parliamentary body.

On 2 March, in what appears to be a follow-up to the 15 February
local police searched the Hrodna office of "Pahonya" without
confiscating some of the newspaper's records and other documents.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the President:

  • condemning the punitive actions of his government against
    Delovaya Gazeta", "Svobodnie Novosti", "Naviny", "Narodnya Volya",
    "Pahonya", "Nasha Niva", and "Imya" in retaliation for fulfilling their
    professional duties of providing complete information to the public
  • strongly urging him to use the power of his office to revoke the
    of the Belarusian Press Committee and ensure the right of journalists to
    freely gather and disseminate information without fear of reprisal

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Alexander Lukashenko
    President of Belarus Republic
    Minsk 220020
    Fax: +375 172 23 58 25

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Committee to Protect Journalists
    330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    info (@) cpj.org
    Fax:+1 212 4659568

    IFEX members working in this country 1

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