November 24, 2005

Polish newspapers protest press censorship in Belarus

Two leading Polish newspapers have published censored front pages to protest against curbs on freedom of speech in neighbouring Belarus.

The papers have teamed up with Amnesty International for the campaign being carried out in Poland and Brussels. Organisers say they want to raise awareness in the European Union of the civil rights abuses committed by Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

Black marker pen has been run through the headlines, photographs and text. Underneath a caption says this is "how freedom of speech looks in Belarus".


Leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes that it is the first time since communism fell in 1989 it has published a censored front page. It invites its readers to send an enclosed Amnesty International postcard to Belarussian President Lukashenko expressing concern about his lack of tolerance for dissent.

The human rights group has also put up 30,000 posters in major Polish cities and Brussels. The posters are portraits of five Belarussian politicians and journalists. Each face has grey masking tape placed over the mouth.

Opposition leaders in the former Soviet republic say Mr Lukashenko has become increasingly authoritarian, suppressing freedom of speech and jailing dissenters.

Story and related links ....

Updates, 14 December 2005 ....

The parliament of Belarus has passed a law intended to stop mass protests - ahead of 2006 presidential elections.

The law will make it a criminal offence to "discredit" the Belarusian state both within Belarus and abroad - with a three year jail term for offenders.

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