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Belarus Shuts Independent Newspaper

5 October 2004 -- The Belarus government today ordered the temporary closure of another independent newspaper ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.

Information Minister Vladimir Rusakevich ordered the "Nedelya" newspaper to stop publishing for three months

AFP reported that officials at the Information Ministry gave no reason for the temporary closure order.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that during the parliamentary vote on 17 October he will simultaneously hold a constitutional referendum on extending his mandate that currently ends in 2006.

Since plans for the referendum were announced, Belarus authorities have closed at least eight independent newspapers.

Lukashenko is frequently criticized by Western governments and by human rights groups for suppressing media freedoms and political opposition.