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Belarus in ban threat to foreign media

The authoritarian president of Belarus threatened to ban some foreign media organisations from working in the country yesterday, over what he said was alarmist coverage of the deepening financial crisis.

President Alexander Lukashenko directed his harshest criticism at the Russian media, which pose a greater danger to his rule because many Belarusians watch Russian TV. He said the Russian coverage had the most "hysteria."

He ominously criticised Belarusian journalists who work for foreign organisations, saying the government must "make sure those media organisations no longer work on our territory." Lukashenko said he would not name the journalists or organisations because he did not want to increase their ratings.

Belarus faces its most severe economic downturn since the Soviet collapse. With currency reserves badly depleted, the National Bank this week cut the value of the Belarusian ruble against the dollar almost in half – sparking panic buying.

Journalists report that people have rushed to buy goods and lined up for days at currency exchange offices for dollars and euros in a desperate attempt to protect their savings.