Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Narodnaya Volya shut down
Belarus's main opposition newspaper, Narodnaya volya, did not appear on the streets of Minsk on October 1. On September 20, its assets were seized by the Lenin district court in Minsk, and the printing house and factory responsible for distributing the newspaper annulled their agreements on the grounds that Narodnaya volya had published materials that contradict the laws of the Republic of Belarus, specifically the law "On the Press and other Mass Media." On September 28, the directors of Belsayuzdruk and Mingorsoyuzpechat (M. Padhainy and I.V. Dudich) issued separate resolutions canceling agreements with the newspaper, and on the same day, the Chyrvonaya Zorka (Red Star) publishing company followed suit, declaring that the newspaper had failed to pay off its outstanding debts (Narodnaya volya, September 29).
According to one of the paper's writers, the ruling regime became irritated with the newspaper at the time of the 2004 referendum on whether President Alexander Lukashenka could be eligible to run for a third term in office.
Edited by Iosif Syaredzich, Narodnaya volya is the most important socio-political newspaper of the opposition in Belarus. It sells approximately 150,000 copies per week, publishing on five days, and it runs articles in both Belarusian and Russian.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, state officials chose to annul the agreements between the services that printed and distributed the newspaper and Narodnaya volya. It described the actions as lawless and calculated to destroy the only independent newspaper at a time when the Congress of Democratic Forces was assembling at the Palace of Culture in the Minsk Automobile Factory to elect its candidate to oppose Lukashenka in the 2006 presidential election (Narodnaya volya, September 30). By preventing distribution of the newspaper at kiosks in Minsk, the authorities thus ensured minimal publicity about the Congress, which elected its single candidate on October 2.