27 May 1999


Independent newspaper receives second warning

Incident details


(CPJ/IFEX) - CPJ is deeply disturbed to learn that, on 26 May 1999, the
State Press Committee issued a second warning to the independent newspaper
"Naviny", which could lead to its closure. CPJ views the warning as the
latest act of intimidation in a campaign to silence independent media in

**Updates IFEX alerts of 21 May, 14 May, 13 May, 19 April, 16 March and 18
February 1999**

The warning came in response to a 12 May "Naviny" article, highly critical
of the
authorities, which the press committee characterized as "inciting
nationalist sentiments." The newspaper now has one month to appeal the
warning. If the warning is upheld, the court can demand the closure of the
newspaper. On the basis of the outcome on 13 May of an appeal involving the
same newspaper, CPJ has little reason to believe that "Naviny" will receive
a fair hearing if it should file an appeal against this warning.

On 13 May, the State Supreme Economic Court upheld the legitimacy of a
February 1999 warning against six independent newspapers, including
"Naviny". The hearing proceeded despite the fact that the plaintiffs were
not present in the courtroom. The day before, they had unsuccessfully
requested that the trial be postponed. The ruling was rendered after little
more than an hour, a surprisingly short time considering that the chairman
of the court admitted in a 10 May letter to the plaintiffs that the case was
"complicated, of social and political significance and had attracted the
interest of international organizations."

The press committee's most recent actions appear to be part of a concerted
effort to prevent "Naviny" from publishing. Last week, the authorities tried
to evict the newspaper from its premises on the pretext that it hadn't paid
for utilities.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:

  • condemning his government's attempts to harass and threaten "Naviny"
    closure in retaliation for providing the public with alternate views on the
    political situation in Belarus
  • reminding him of his obligations to uphold the principles of Article 19
    the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "everyone has
    the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom
    to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart
    information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"
  • stating that his neglect of these universally recognized principles has
    led to his government's isolation from the international community
  • urging him to use the power of his office to revoke the State Press
    Committee's warning, and to 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
    E-mail: infogrp@president.gov.by

    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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