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ARTICLE 19 and Freedom House have expressed concern over a law the Belarusian government passed earlier this month giving the state powers to shut down religious publications and impose tighter restrictions on the publication and distribution of religious material.

Under the new law, religious publications must obtain prior government approval before they can be distributed to libraries, a clear violation of the right to free expression, ARTICLE 19 says. It also requires religious institutions to register before they can distribute or publish information. Even then, registered institutions can only distribute their publications in government-sanctioned outlets, ARTICLE 19 adds.

The recently approved law is seen as an attempt by the government to crack down on religious minorities in Belarus and assert the dominance of the Russian Orthodoxy church, notes BBC. It prohibits religions which have been active for less than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions.

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Visit these links:

- ARTICLE 19 Report "Instruments of Control":">">

- Freedom House Report "Nations in Transit 2002: Belarus:">">

- Human Rights Watch 2002 Report on Belarus:">">

- Belarusian Association of Journalists:

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