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Belarus: Journalists Worried About Inspections Of Independent Newspapers

Prague, 28 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- An international organization for the defense of press freedoms worldwide says it is worried by a sudden crackdown on independent newspapers in Belarus.

Reporters without Borders spokesperson Frank Petit said tax inspectors from the Finance Ministry are conducting so-called inspections of several independent Belarusian newspapers. He said the inspections are supposed to determine whether the newspapers have paid all the required taxes.

The Paris-based organization sent a fax to Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka asking him why the operation was launched against the press and calling on him to guarantee the independence of the newspapers.

Petit said journalists in Belarus worry about the consequences of the inspections and see the government action as harassment.

Publications being investigated are the daily "Beloruskaya Delovaya Gazeta," the weekly "Svoboda" and the biweekly economic newspaper "Belaruski Rinok." Two other independent weekly publications, "Femida" and "Svabodnie Novosti Plus," have already been inspected.

Petit said his organization has not yet received a response from the Belarussian government.