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'Draft media law in Belarus should be changed', says PACE rapporteur

Strasbourg, 01.07.2008 - “I am extremely preoccupied by the draft media law currently under examination by the Belarusian upper chamber of parliament” today said Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ADLE), Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteur on the situation in Belarus.

“Once this legislation comes into force, it will restrict freedom of information in the country even further, especially when it comes to electronic media, and will extend the power of the authorities to interfere with media activities in a way which is contrary to European standards. What is more, even before its entry into force, the new draft law is bound to have a chilling effect of self-censorship on the media. Given the forthcoming parliamentary elections, this gives particular and acute cause for concern”, he said.

“I call on the Belarusian authorities to suspend any further examination of this draft and its entry into force, and, before proceeding further, to engage in a broad and meaningful consultation process with Belarusian human rights organisations and civil society – including, of course, independent media representatives – as  well as relevant international organisations such as the Council of Europe. This would be a golden opportunity for the Belarusian authorities to show that their willingness to come closer to Europe is genuine”, Mr Rigoni concluded.