Belarus | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


The authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is openly hostile to a free press. New security legislation allows state agencies to effectively seize control of all media outlets under cover of counter-terrorism operations. This legislation prohibits press discussion of law enforcement activities and defines some forms of political protest as "terrorist" activity. In 2002, Belarusian courts sentenced Mikola Markevich, editor of the independent weekly Pahonya, and the journalist Pavel Mazheika to two years of forced labor for insulting the honor of the president. The sentence was reduced to one year on appeal. Authorities subsequently arrested 14 journalists for protesting in support of Markevich and Mazheika. State-run media outlets are subordinated to the president, whose regime controls press content and the appointment of senior editors. While state-controlled print and broadcast media do not offer a plurality of views, some regional television broadcasters cautiously attempt more balanced reporting. Many Belarusians receive their news from Russian television. However, the government is reportedly planning to assign the current Russian broadcast frequency to a new state television channel.