September 30, 2005

OSCE Protests Closure Of Independent Belarus Newspaper

VIENNA (AP)--Europe's largest security organization urged Belarusian authorities Friday to not close down the country's only independent daily newspaper.

Miklos Haraszti, media freedom representative for the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, wrote Belarus' Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov and Information Minister Vladimir Rusakevich warning that the closure would be a mistake.

On Wednesday, Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) received letters from a state printing house and the state monopoly print media distribution network informing it that they were canceling their contracts, editor-in-chief Yosif Seredich said.

"I view this development as unprecedented in the OSCE region," Haraszti told the officials. "If this happens, Belarus will lose two-thirds of its independent press, its only independent daily."

"I strongly believe that the closure of Narodnaya Volya would be a major setback in the development of the free press in Belarus and a great loss for Belarusian society. I have asked the authorities to do everything in their power to stop this from happening," he added.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's relentless crackdown on dissent and alleged vote fraud in his nation of 10 million sandwiched between Russia and Poland has triggered fierce criticism in the West.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 30, 2005 07:57 ET (11:57 GMT)

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