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Independent Belarusian News Websites Blocked

Several independent news websites have been blocked in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, where the government exerts close control of news media.

The government did not say who was responsible for the blockages that began on December 21.

But a statement from the private news agency BelaPAN said "the decision to block IP addresses can be made only by the authorities."

Three of BelaPAN's websites were blocked, along with the news website Solidarnost and the website of the human rights organization Khartiya-97.

Parliament passed legislation last week allowing the state to close any Internet news site that receives two warnings about content in a year.

The law is not due to enter into force until January 1.

Authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is expected to run for reelection next autumn after 21 years in power.

Based on reporting by AP and BelaPAN

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