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Gay Magazine Prohibited in Belarus

Editors of the only gay magazine in Belarus Forum Lambda were notified by the Belarus Republic State Committee for Mass Media that their registration had been cancelled. The Committee advanced the following reason - "the magazine was registered as an educational and cultural publication, but has been running erotic content for more than a year now".

The first notice with the same wording was delivered to the editors of Forum Lambda on September 17 after the Belarus government allegedly prohibited Belarus Gay Pride 2001. At about the same time the State Committee for Mass Media initiated a tax audit of the magazine. No violations have been found.

Editors will bring a claim to the Supreme Arbitrage Court of Belarus to challenge the decision of the Committee. They expect to be supported by the Mass Media Protection Center with the Belarus Association of Journalists.

Editors claim that the Committee cancelled the registration of the magazine in violation of the law. The law provides that no less than three warning notices must be served to a publication before the registration may be cancelled provided that the publication has not contested these notices in court, nor remedied violations. Since the issue of the first warning notice in September 2000 the magazine has not been published.

Moreover, as of January 1, 2001 Belarus adopted new rules on sexually explicit content. Under these rules Playboy was determined non-erotic and suitable for free circulation and sale. At the same time, Forum Lambda has never been any more explicit than Men's Health.

Forum Lambda (known as Forum before 1999) began in August 1998 as the information bulletin of the first Belarusian gay organization - Belarus League for Freedom of Sexual Minorities Lambda (BLL). On 2 June 1999 the magazine was officially registered. In 1999-2000 its publication was supported by the Soros Foundation (OSI Paris). Its editors initiated and arranged the annual Belarus Gay Pride. The magazine used to be the only outlet for the country's gay and lesbian individuals where they could claim their rights.

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