Belarus: New Media Law Signed by President Lukashenka

Despite protests from national and international human rights and freedom of expression organisations, the repressive Draft Law on Mass Media was signed on 4 August 2008 by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka.

ARTICLE 19 deeply regrets and condemns the decision by President Lukashenka to sign the new media law which the Parliament had approved in late June, despite domestic and international protests. The bill will come into effect in approximately six months.

Although the Belarusian constitution formally guarantees freedom of expression and of the media, numerous regulations already severely restrict these rights. Widespread repressions against independent media, as well as any type of opposition to the regime, has forced most of the independent media to work underground. Imprisonment and intimidations of journalists and human rights activists are common practice. The new media law will not only allow Belarusian authorities to further limit the activities of the media, but it will facilitate -legal- repressions, such as the imposition of total state control over the internet as well as additional restrictions on interactions between Belarusian journalists and the international media. The new law will also force journalists to self-censor their work even more.

In June 2008, ARTICLE 19 initiated a collective action bringing eight NGOs together to petition against the draft law and to remind Belarusian authorities about their international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).We furthermore called for the immediate withdrawal of the draft law - the original letter can be found here: However, these efforts, together with many others before that, were once again ignored by the regime, demonstrating a complete absence of respect for human rights and democratic norms.

ARTICLE 19 applauds the efforts and courage of Belarusian journalists and civil society groups who continue their struggle against increasing government repressions. We call on the international community, including the governments of Russia, European Union states, and the USA, to use all the influence and means at their disposal to convince the Belarusian president and authorities to reconsider this course of action and amend the law based on the principles of respect for freedom of expression.



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