Tough new media law only needs president's signature



    MONTREAL, July 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today voiced
fears about a tough new media law in Belarus that is only waiting for
President Alexander Lukachenko's signature to come into force.
    The restrictive new law was approved on 28 June by a near unanimous 48
votes to one by the Belarus Council of the Republic (the upper chamber of the
National Assembly) after being adopted at the first and second reading in the
lower house.
    "We repeat our deep concern about the deterioration in press freedom in
Belarus. We urge President Lukachenko to reject this new law which steps up
the already strong pressure on the press in Belarus", the worldwide press
freedom organisation said.
    The new law will force all media to undergo a new registration process,
provides for stricter state control of online publications and simplifies
official closure of a media. Reporters Without Borders already spelled out the
reasons for its concern in a release on 19 June.
    The adoption of the first and second readings of the law prompted
numerous protests within Belarus but also internationally and the Belarus
Association of Journalists (BAJ) put forward amendments to the draft law. Five
of their 30 suggestions were taken into account but the "most contentious
parts stayed in" said BAJ.
    Once signed into law by the president, it will come into effect
six months after being published in the official newspaper.
    The European Commission on 1st July condemned the adoption of the law by
the Belarus Parliament. External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner
said, ""I deplore the adoption by Belarus parliament of a new media law that
will further restrict the freedom of the press in Belarus. Freedom of the
press is an essential element of democracy and I urge the Belarusian
authorities to remedy this situation ahead of the parliamentary elections of
28 September."
    Reporters Without Borders joined Article 19 on 24 June in sending a
letter to the president of Belarus and the council of minister to express deep
anxiety about this new law.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary General,
Reporters sans frontières Canada, (514) 521 4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org;
www.rsfcanada.org

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