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Belarusian Newspaper Threatened With Closure Vows To Continue

"Narodnaya volya" deputy editor in chief Maryna Koktysh (file photo)
"Narodnaya volya" deputy editor in chief Maryna Koktysh (file photo)
MINSK -- The deputy editor of an independent Belarusian newspaper has vowed to keep it going, despite moves by the authorities to shut it down, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

On April 27, the Information Ministry filed lawsuits with the country's Supreme Economic Court aimed at shutting independent newspapers "Nasha niva" and "Narodnaya volya" (People's Will).

Maryna Koktysh, "Narodnaya volya" deputy editor in chief, told RFE/RL today that the editors would do everything to save the newspaper.

Koktysh said scores of people called the newspaper's head office on April 27 asking what they can do to help the newspaper survive. Among the proposals were organizing a picket in front of the information minister's apartment and calling nonstop to the Information Ministry's hotline.

Koktysh said it was possible to issue the newspaper from abroad, or to print it in underground conditions. "'Narodnaya Volya' will be operating as long as we are alive," she said.

The move to shut the two publications drew criticism today from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on freedom of the media.

Dunja Mijatovic expressed alarm over the lawsuits, saying that "this move by the Belarusian government to silence a few remaining critical voices will further diminish media pluralism in the country."

Three Official Warnings

The move by the Information Ministry came after the newspapers received three official warnings in recent months over their "wrong coverage of events" in the country.

Belarusian law allows the Supreme Economic Court to shut a media outlet after it receives three warnings from the Information Ministry.

Andrey Skurko, chief editor of "Nasha niva," told RFE/RL that his newspaper got two warnings from the ministry for the paper's coverage of a documentary ("The Godfather") critical of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that was aired on Russian television last year.

The third warning was about the paper's coverage of the April 11 Minsk subway bombing.

Skurko said it was strange that the recommendation to shut his paper was made just days after the third warning.

"We have a right to challenge that warning but the authorities are in a hurry to shut us down," he said, describing the move as politically motivated.

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