Alyaksandr Lukashenka was once again named among "predators of the press" by international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
On May 3, the Paris-based organization released an updated list of enemies of the press to mark the United Nations-backed World Press Freedom Day.
The group`s list features presidents and heads of government, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
There are 40 names on this year’s list. The 40 politicians, government officials, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations are "powerful, dangerous, violent and above the law," said Reporters Without Borders.
On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) issued a statement expressing concern about what it called crackdown on the country’s media ahead of the next presidential election.
"The country’s authorities hold complete control over the information space and restrain activities of independent media outlets through the denial of access to information, bans on distribution and printing, court prosecution and economic discrimination," the BAJ said.
The Association expressed concern about police raids mounted on independent journalists earlier this year officially in connection with a defamation investigation into the coverage of a high-profile "hunting" case pitting the police against the Committee for State Security (KGB).
The BAJ said that authorities also obstruct journalists covering street protests and slap reporters with warnings for acting without accreditation.
"In this context, the main achievement to which each of us has contributed is the independent media that has been preserved in Belarus as an institution of society," the BAJ said. "We have survived as a community because we attach a paramount importance to the conscientious choice in favor of the profession and the understanding of our personal responsibility for delivering true and unbiased information to society."
"Only our unity will enable us to address all challenges and threats efficiently," the BAJ added.