http://gdb.rferl.org/09269143-0752-407F-9C22-E3C63004C61B_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/09269143-0752-407F-9C22-E3C63004C61B_mw800_mh600.jpg
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.