Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The condition of press freedom in Belarus remains dire. Although the constitution formally provides for freedom of speech, authorities are extremely intolerant of criticism, often silencing opposition media with libel lawsuits, financial pressures, closures and suspensions, and intimidation of journalists. An executive decree of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka prohibits activities that demean state authorities, and defamation of the president can result in up to five years in prison. The ministry of information controls the licensing of the print and broadcast media, regularly monitors media content, and often acts to stifle the independent press. A new Law on Mass Media presented to the parliament in October 2003 may serve to restrain press freedom in Belarus further, raising the specter of media re-registration and censorship of the Internet, among other restrictions. In May, the popular independent daily Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta was suspended for three months after receiving several warnings from the ministry of information concerning unfavorable coverage of the president and his government. All nationally available broadcast media are government owned, and authorities greatly restricted access to previously available Russian radio and television broadcasts in 2003. Journalists are subject to legal and physical harassment, and self-censorship is common. While, unlike the year before, no journalists were imprisoned in 2003, several were charged with libel and forced to pay large, often debilitating fines. In March, journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheika were granted early releases after each had served six months of their respective corrective labor sentences following convictions for libel of the president in 2002.