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DESPITE PROTESTS, LUKASHENKO SIGNS RESTRICTIVE MEDIA LAW

President Alexander Lukashenko has signed into law a media bill that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls "extremely restrictive" and will lead to "total eradication of the independent media." Rushed through the Belarusian parliament before it adjourned in late June, the bill will take effect in six months.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the law subjects websites to the same restrictions as regular media, bans local media from accepting foreign donations or investment, and lets local and state authorities shutter independent publications for minor violations. It also requires multiple accreditations for Belarusian and foreign journalists working in Belarus, and obliges Belarusian media to re-register with state authorities.

Noting a chorus of international objections to the president's bill, the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) said, "This is an area in which the [government] wants total control, regardless of what Belarusians and the international community want."

In June 2008, ARTICLE 19 led eight organisations to petition against the draft law.
Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/6obctk
- Opposition to bill: http://www.ifex.org/e/content/view/full/95027/
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28071
- ARTICLE 19 letter (PDF): http://tinyurl.com/6x7yyn
(13 August 2008)

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