Belarus denies censorship reports

The Belarusian authorities have described as a "provocation" reports that it has requested major state media outlets not to mention artists and cultural figures criticizing the government.

Belarusian bloggers and opposition media have reported that a blacklist containing names of "art activists and groups" was sent to all major state-run media outlets. A copy of the list, which contains both Belarusian and foreign artists, has been posted on one of the opposition websites.

Bloggers have suggested the artists were "prohibited" over their criticism of the harsh response to opposition demonstrations following disputed presidential elections in December.

The elections saw incumbent President Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for more than 15 years, win a fourth term in office with almost 80 percent of the vote. More than 600 people were detained during large-scale protests that broke out in the capital, Minsk.

Most of the detainees have been charged with administrative offenses, but dozens of criminal cases have been initiated over the protests, including several against former presidential candidates.

The head of the internet media department of the Belarusian Information Ministry described the reports about the blacklist "a clear provocation."

"The Information Ministry did not initiate this," Vladimir Yadrintsev told RIA Novosti.

Alexander Timoshenko, the Belarusian prime minister's press secretary, said he was "unaware of the existence of such a document."

State media outlets questioned by RIA Novosti have not denied the existence of the list, which contains the names of prominent Belarusian, Russian and Western rock and pop bands, including Pet Shop Boys, Soviet dissident writers, and several Western actors, including Jude Law and Kevin Spacey.

The European Union and the United States have imposed new travel and financial sanctions on Lukashenko and 157 other state and government officials in response to December's "flawed" elections and the subsequent clampdown.

MINSK, March 3 (RIA Novosti)


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