The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, at a discussion on "journalists in war and crisis environment",
Berlin, 3 May 2002. (David Ausserhofer)
VIENNA, 30 May 2003 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, has asked Belarusian Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, for urgent clarification regarding the three-month suspension from publication of the independent newspapers, Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG) and BDG-For Internal Use Only.
The Ministry of Information of Belarus suspended the publications from 29 May 2003, after giving them three official warnings that they were violating the country's media legislation.
One of the reasons given for this suspension is for publishing an article which is alleged to defame President Aleksandr Lukashenko, causing damage to his honour and dignity. Another warning was issued when the newspaper reported on court proceedings without written permission of the judge.
"As OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media I have frequently stated my position that no special protection should be afforded to public officials, including the president," Mr. Duve wrote in his letter to the Minister. "Conversely, public officials should learn to exercise a greater level of tolerance to criticism, including from the media, than ordinary citizens."
"What compounds my concern is the fact that other independent newspapers, including Narodnaya Volya, Navinki and Vcherny Stolin, have also received their second or third official warnings from the Ministry of Information and may also be subject to closure or suspension in the near future. It appears that your Government is using the current media law to restrict freedom of the press in the Republic of Belarus."
The letter to the Belarusian Foreign Minister also expressed the OSCE Media Representative's deep concern " about these negative developments regarding freedom of media in your country, a valued member of the OSCE family and signatory to all OSCE agreements on press freedom. I would appreciate urgent clarification on these serious matters."