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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 23:00 GMT
EU launches broadcasts to Belarus
Journalist Wiktar Stachwiuk broadcasts to Belarus from Radio Racja in Poland
Poland launched Radio Racja into Belarus earlier in the week
An EU-funded radio station has begun broadcasting into Belarus to offer Belarussians "independent" news ahead of next month's election.

Lithuanian-based Baltic Waves will broadcast a daily hour-long bulletin of news, music and information on Europe.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko - called Europe's last dictator by the US - is accused of stifling the media.

A Polish-funded radio station, Radio Racja, began broadcasting into Belarus earlier this week.

Baltic Waves is being run by a team of Polish, Lithuanian, German, Russian and Belarussian journalists from Vilnius.

It is part of a wider two million euro ($2.4m) package of measures by the EU to support Belarussian journalists and promote an independent media in the country.

Weekly half-hour television programmes are due to be broadcast soon.

Protests warning

"Tight controls on the media in Belarus make it hard for Belarussians to find independent sources of information," Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said.

"I look forward to the day when Belarus will have its own free media, because this is crucial to the functioning of a democracy."

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko is accused of authoritarianism

A Belarus foreign ministry spokesman said of the broadcaster: "If our EU partners have money to cast to the winds, that's up to them."

Mr Lukashenko, who has been in power for more than a decade, and his government are accused by the West of violating human rights, rigging elections and suppressing the opposition.

His main challenger in the 19 March elections, Alexander Milinkevich, has warned of protests if the polls are not fair.

Poland backs Belarus broadcasts
22 Feb 06 |  Europe
Belarus names election hopefuls
17 Feb 06 |  Europe

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