23 August 2005

Belarus authorities shut down another independent paper


MINSK - Authorities in Belarus announced late Monday the liquidation of an independent newspaper publisher that had frequently crossed President Alexander Lukashenko's administration -- the latest in a string of closures of critical media outlets.

City authorities in the capital, Minsk, issued a statement announcing the closure of the Denpress publishing company, publisher of the Den (Day) newspaper, "for interrupting its commercial activities for six months and failing to explain the fact to tax officials".

The publishing house's director, Nikolai Markevich, rejected the accusation as groundless, saying that the company could not function properly as the courts had stripped it of its legal address earlier in the year, forcing it to print the newspaper in neighbouring Russia.

Denpress had operated out of the western city of Grodno, close to the Polish border, but also had an office in the capital.

The paper had complained of frequent harassment by the authorities, including after it published verses deemed by the authorities to have insulted Lukashenko.

According to the Belarussian Journalists Association authorities in the former Soviet republic have closed down over 20 independent newspapers in the last two years.