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Free Elections Impossible In Belarus, Media Leaders Say

10 February 2006 -- Press freedom advocates said today that tight government restrictions on the media make free elections in Belarus impossible.

Voters in Belarus are due to go the polls to elect a president on 19 March.

The media advocates held a joint news conference in Moscow to highlight their concerns.

Alex Lupis, of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said no election can be valid when voters are deprived of independent news about the candidates and their positions.

Oleg Panfilov, head of the Moscow-based Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations, said it was "impossible for Belarusian society to evaluate" the candidates.

Svetlana Kalinkina, managing editor of "Narodnaya volya," a leading Belarusian opposition newspaper, said the government is using overt threats as well as financial pressure to drive independent media out of business.

(RFE/RL 13.ii.06)

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