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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Belarus

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Belarus, February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5655f28.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As of December 31, 1998

With free enterprise stifled, opposition activists detained, and independent media restricted, the Soviet-style rule of President Aleksander Lukashenko continued to have disastrous effects on Belarus' economic and political life. The United States and other Western governments withdrew their ambassadors after Lukashenko locked diplomats out of their Minsk houses in June. And Belarussian citizens warned that their president's disdain for the West reflects his ultimate goal: to rule a Slavic union that includes Russia.

To combat his critics, Lukashenko increased the already onerous restrictions on the media. In April, the press in Minsk learned of an undated, secret government memorandum that directed state agencies not to give resolutions, orders, or other official documents to non-state media. The memorandum also barred state officials from commenting about official documents to independent journalists, and restricted state advertising to state-run media. The latter move was a severe financial threat to the emerging independent press, which mainly consists of small-circulation daily and weekly newspapers.

In May, CPJ named Lukashenko one of the world's 10 worst Enemies of the Press for the second year in a row. When that news was reported by the Minsk-based independent weekly Zdravy Smysl, the State Committee on the Press issued a warning to the paper, charging it had provided "distorted information. "The warning was based on the newspaper's use of the word "decree" to describe the secret memorandum forbidding distribution of government documents to non-state media.

In November, Lukashenko refused to allow Pavel Sheremet, Minsk bureau chief for Russian ORT television and editor of Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, to travel to New York City to receive CPJ's 1998 International Press Freedom Award. Sheremet is a citizen of Belarus and ORT bureau chief in Minsk. The Belarus government has frequently targeted him for official harassment, including imprisonment, stripping him of his professional credentials, and barring him from traveling abroad. On November 26, two days after CPJ's awards ceremony, the government finally told Sheremet he was free to travel. Instead of going to New York City, Sheremet received the award from a CPJ delegation that traveled to Minsk on December 8 to present the honor before dozens of independent journalists, diplomats, and Belarussian politicians.

Attacks on the Press in Belarus in 1998

DateJournalistIncident
03/26/98All mediaCensored
01/28/98Pavel Sheremet, ORT Minsk Bureau Chief, Belorusskaya Delovaya GazetaHarassed, Legal Action
01/28/98Dmitri Zavadsky, ORT Minsk Bureau cameramanLegal Action
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