Paris, December 14, 2022— Belarusian authorities should reverse a recent decision to cancel the registration of the independent business newspaper Belarusy y Rynok and cease all efforts to censor the outlet, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
On December 1, the Belarusian Ministry of Information ordered Belarusy y Rynok’s registration to be annulled, according to a December 12 statement by the outlet, media reports, and a copy of the decision, which CPJ reviewed.
Authorities accuse Belarusy y Rynok of violating a section of the country’s media law barring outlets from being more than 20 percent owned by non-Belarusians or by foreign entities, according to those reports and Belarusy y Rynok majority shareholder Dzmitry Novikau, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Novikau told CPJ that the outlet’s foreign founding members had already given up their shares after a law limiting foreign ownership was enacted in 2021, but said authorities refused to register the documents reflecting that change.
“By revoking the registration of Belarusy y Rynok, Belarusian authorities have put an end to the release of a historical newspaper that has courageously continued to provide independent reporting for over 30 years,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities must immediately reverse the cancellation of Belarusy y Rynok’s registration, and let all media outlets work freely.”
In its statement, Belarusy y Rynok said it would stop printing to comply with the order.
“For now, the outlet’s social media and YouTube are still being updated,” Belarusy y Rynok chief editor Andrei Aleksandrovich told CPJ in a phone interview. “No appeal against the order of the Belarusian Ministry of Information is planned.”
Belarusy y Rynok, which was founded in 1990, called itself the “oldest independent Belarusian newspaper” in its statement. It recently covered the country’s economic difficulties and Ukrainian authorities’ confiscation of Belarusian companies’ property.
In May 2022, authorities in Minsk searched Belarusy y Rynok’s editorial office and detained Aleksandrovich, the outlet’s director Kanstantsin Zalatykh, and an accountant, Yulia Kahno.
Zalatykh remains in detention and faces charges of inciting hatred, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail, according to Viasna, a banned human rights group that continues to operate unofficially.
CPJ emailed the Belarusian Ministry of Information for comment, but did not receive any reply.