New York, March 6, 2006-The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned escalating media repression in Belarus ahead of March 19 presidential elections. Iosef Serdiyevich, editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Narodnaya Volya, announced at a press conference today that police officers had confiscated 250,000 copies of a special election edition of the newspaper, according to local and international press reports.
The newspaper normally prints 30,000 copies for distribution in Minsk and other regional cities. Two trucks transporting the newspapers from the printer in the Russian city of Smolensk to the capital, Minsk, were stopped by police on the evening of March 3 as they were traveling through the northwestern border region of Vitebsk.
Narodnaya Volya Managing Editor Svetlana Kalinkina said police cited a "violation of electoral regulations" but did not provide any legal documents or official notice explaining the allegation. Serdiyevich told reporters that the newspaper had not violated any election regulations.
Following a mission to Belarus in February, CPJ outlined a series of recent repressive actions taken by the government. (See CPJ's February 10 alert:)
"President Lukashenko is using the many levers of government to suppress news reporting and keep Belarusian voters in the dark about the presidential elections," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "The president undermines the validity of the elections by silencing independent media."
The March 3 special edition of Narodnaya Volya reported on the activities of opposition candidates ahead of the March 19 presidential election, including an article about plainclothes police beating opposition candidate Aleksandr Kazulin, his supporters, and several journalists. (See CPJ's March 2 alert:)