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Thousands Attend 'Solidarity With Belarus' Concert


http://gdb.rferl.org/09778591-2091-4495-B5F8-CC33D266BB11_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/09778591-2091-4495-B5F8-CC33D266BB11_mw800_mh600.jpg Belarusian Opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich at a March 2 rally (file photo) (epa) March 12, 2006 -- Thousands of people attended a "Solidarity with Belarus" rock concert in the Polish capital Warsaw on March 12.


The concert, which came a week ahead of Belarusian presidential elections, featured Belarusian rock singers banned in their homeland.


Polish rock bands -- some with roots in Poland's Solidarity trade union -- also performed at the concert in Warsaw's Old Town.


Earlier in the day, the Belarus government threatened to deport any foreigners who might be planning to take part in activities the regime views as destabilizing ahead of the elections.


President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is a seeking a third term in the March 19 poll. European Union and U.S. officials have already said they do not expect the election to be democratic due to the Lukashenka regime's crackdown on the independent media and its harassment of the political opposition.


(AFP, ITAR-TASS)

The Media In Belarus



'A CENTRAL-ASIAN LEVEL OF PRESS FREEDOM': The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls the current conditions for journalists in Belarus "frightening."

CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator ALEX LUPIS, who had just returned from a trip to Belarus, told an RFE/RL briefing on 15 February that he found conditions that make it almost impossible for journalists to report independently on the campaign leading to the country's 19 March presidential election.

Lupis said the Belarusian government is "criminalizing" independent journalism, and forcing journalists to leave the country, change professions or join the state-controlled media. There is a "Cold War atmosphere" in Belarus, Lupis said, adding that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka makes up the rules of the game. The Internet, he said, is the "last free outlet" where independent journalists can publish, but Russia and Belarus are updating their media laws in order to restrict Internet usage. Numerous journalists with whom Lupis spoke said that they miss the support they used to receive from nongovernmental organizations such as IREX and Internews, which were once active in Belarus.

Lupis believes that the government in Belarus bans independent journalism because it fundamentally "mistrusts its own people."

Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media

See these RFE/RL stories on the media in Belarus:

Independent Newspaper Struggles Against State Interference

EU-Funded Media Broadcasts To Start Before March Elections

Authorities 'Cleanse' Media Ahead Of 2006 Vote


Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.


Click on the image to view RFE/RL's coverage of the election campaign in Belarusian and to listen to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service.

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