UPDATE 1-Eurovision organisers reject Belarusian song entry, threaten disqualification

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KYIV, March 11 (Reuters) - The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on Thursday rejected the Belarusian entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and said the country risked being disqualified if it did not change its entry or submit a new one.

The Belarusian entry, by a band that has released songs mocking protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, has sparked a backlash from opposition figures and fuelled calls by a European Parliament lawmaker for Belarus to be suspended from the popular competition.

“It was concluded that the song puts the non-political nature of the Contest in question,” the EBU said in a statement. “In addition, recent reactions to the proposed entry risk bringing the reputation of the ESC into disrepute.”

The entry, by Galasy ZMesta, features lyrics such as “I will teach you to toe the line” and has received 5,800 likes and 40,000 dislikes on the competition’s official YouTube page since Tuesday, with more than half a million views.

To critics, allowing the entry to be performed would add legitimacy to a violent crackdown launched by Lukashenko against mass unrest that swept the country following an August election. Demonstrators say the vote was rigged to extend his 27-year rule.

Reporting by Matthias Williams Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky