Belarus - Crackdown on independent media continues

Reporters Sans Frontieres | April 1st, 2010 at 6:50 am

Amid a wave of harassment of independent journalists, the authorities have seized tens of thousands of copies of two publications in the eastern city of Vitebsk, in an outrageous development that reverses all of the relative progress made in 2009.

Activists who help with the printing said police confiscated 24,000 copies of the monthly magazine Nash Dom and 10,000 copies of the weekly Vitebsky Kuryer on 25 March. A court ordered their seizure and fined their publisher, Viktar Ramnyu, 1,225,000 roubles (309 euros) for publishing them without naming the company that printed them.

Police previously confiscated 50,000 copies of Nash Dom on 17 March. In all, they have seized nearly half of the copies produced for distribution throughout the country. Nash Dom has no legal status as the information ministry rejected its request for a publication permit on 22 January.

Vitebsky Kuryer has a Russian permit that is valid for Belarus under a February 1998 agreement between the two countries on cooperation in the print media domain, which created a joint "information space."

A Vitebsk regional court nonetheless ruled that its distribution is illegal. The newspaper has appealed against the decision and in the meantime it is being illegally distributed free of charge by volunteers in exchange for gifts that contribute to its survival. It has been a big success in Vitebsk ever since its first issue was published in September 2009.

"The authorities are trying to prevent the existence of a newspaper that publishes the views of all those with something to say," a local source told Reporters Without Borders.


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