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Belarus/Turkmenistan: Presidents Listed As Enemies Of Free Press

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 4 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A prominent independent journalism group says the leaders of Nigeria, Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Turkmenistan and China are among the world's top enemies of a free press.

The assessment was made by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). It was released in New York yesterday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day.

General Sani Abacha of Nigeria topped the list. The group says Abacha is holding 21 Nigerian journalists in prison, more than any other African country.

The CPJ also criticized Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, accusing him of what it called an "ongoing, Soviet-style campaign against independent and foreign media."

The group said Lukashenka's directive issued last year forbids state officials to make any documents available to independent media and bans government advertising in all but state-run publications or broadcasts.

The committee cited Lukashenka's censorship and shutdown of the independent newspaper Svaboda (Freedom) and the trial of ORT (Russian television) personnel in Minsk.

As for Turkmenistan, the group said President Saparmurat Niyazov rules his country "like the old-style totalitarian, cult-of-personality Soviet-style dictator he is."

The CPJ says Turkmenistan is "the most repressive of the former Soviet states."

The committee says "reporters for Radio Liberty, the only alternative non-state source of information in the Turkmen language, are routinely harassed, beaten and forced into exile, and in recent months several have been imprisoned by Niyazov's state security forces."

The report says that, despite his record, Niyazov was recently welcomed to the White House by U.S. President Bill Clinton. It notes that Turkmenistan has vast energy reserves, such as natural gas.


Here is the Top 10 CPJ List:

1. Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria.

2. Gen. Than Shwe of Burma.

3. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus.

4. President Fidel Catsro of Cuba.

5. President Suharto of Indonesia.

6. President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan.

7. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

8. President Zine Abdine Ben Ali of Tunesia.

9. President Jiang Zemin of China.

10. Prime Minister Abd al-Salam al-Majali of Jordan.