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8 December 2005 -- Human rights groups and opposition activists in Belarus have strongly criticized a set of restrictive amendments to the Criminal Code that the country's upper house of parliament has unanimously approved.
The changes, which must be signed by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, would make it a crime punishable by up to two years in jail to "discredit" Belarus in the eyes of foreign organizations and governments. People convicted of circulating "false information" about the country would face similar prison terms under the new law.
The proposed legislation also envisions tough penalties for anyone convicted of inciting demonstrations, or calling on foreign states or nongovernmental groups to "commit actions damaging Belarus external security."
The Belarusian opposition says the proposed legislation is part of a policy of intimidation ahead of the 2006 presidential polls. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has also expressed its concern.