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Members of the "Narodnaya volya" staff send out copies of the paper in an effort to circumvent government restrictions (file photo) (RFE/RL) 10 February 2006 -- Press freedom advocates said today that tight government restrictions on the media make free elections in Belarus impossible.

Voters in Belarus are due to go the polls to elect a president on 19 March.

The media advocates held a joint news conference in Moscow to highlight their concerns.

Alex Lupis, of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said no election can be valid when voters are deprived of independent news about the candidates and their positions.

Oleg Panfilov, head of the Moscow-based Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations, said it was "impossible for Belarusian society to evaluate" the candidates.

Svetlana Kalinkina, managing editor of "Narodnaya volya," a leading Belarusian opposition newspaper, said the government is using overt threats as well as financial pressure to drive independent media out of business.


Video Roundtable On Belarus/Ukraine

On December 8, 2005, RFE/RL and the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) jointly conducted a roundtable discussion on issues relating to Belarus's post-Soviet transition. To view video of the roundtable, click here.

See also:

Belarus: Authorities 'Cleanse' Media Ahead Of 2006 Vote

Can Belarus's Opposition Unite To Challenge Lukashenka?

Belarus: The Slow-Boiling Dictatorship