As Belarus's authoritarian president campaigns this fall to seize new political powers in this ex-Soviet country, his government is working to shut down the tiny independent press here.

During two years in office, President Alexander Lukashenko has taken control of the state press and broadcasting, the main sources of information for the 10 million Belarusans. But in the capital, a few independent press organs have survived, publishing frequently critical reports about the government.

Lukashenko is trying to force the legislature to grant him broad new powers that diplomats and jurists here say would make him a dictator. He sees even a small independent press in Minsk as a threat, said a Western diplomat, because it has helped inform and energize his opposition.

Last month, Lukashenko's administration turned up the pressure against independent media. Within a few days, authorities shut down the only independent radio station, froze the bank accounts of at least five weekly newspapers for alleged tax evasion and forced one paper out of its office.

"They are using financial pressures to force us to close," said Vyacheslav Khodosovskiy, chief editor of Belarusski Rynok, a business newspaper. "They suddenly declared that all these newspapers are violating tax laws and have frozen our {bank} account and are hitting us with fines. . . . I don't know how much longer we will survive. Maybe a few more months."

Lukashenko is unlikely to control public information absolutely. In the decade since Mikhail Gorbachev introduced openness in Soviet information policy, urban Belarusans have become used to hearing their news from varied sources. Many Belarusans interviewed this year said they rely on the U.S.-backed station Radio Liberty -- or on Russian radio and television, which are rebroadcast here -- as well as the local independent press.

But Lukashenko "clearly regards control of information as an essential part of getting dictatorial power," a Western diplomat said. Within months of winning election in 1994, he replaced editors of several state-owned newspapers with his appointees and took control of state broadcasting. In December 1994, his administration barred reporting of a legislator's speech that accused Lukashenko of corruption, leaving newspapers to publish blank spots where the articles were to have appeared.

Last year, Lukashenko ordered state-owned presses to stop printing several papers, including the weekly Belarusskaya Gazeta. Since then, "we've had to take our paper to Vilnius {the capital of neighboring Lithuania} to be printed," said Editor Alexander Volvachev.

In the paper's small warren of offices, young Belarusans bustled amid paper-cluttered desks, bookshelves and a few computers. Each week they lay out the paper's pages and drive them 125 miles northwest to Vilnius, then truck the papers back. Newspaper distribution in Belarus is a state monopoly, so the independent papers hire unemployed people, often elderly pensioners, as street vendors. Recently, police have been harassing vendors, sometimes confiscating their papers, Belarusan journalists said.

Lukashenko's pressure on the media aims to silence not only opposition groups but also the legislature, which opposes his attempt to broaden his powers. He dismissed the editor of the legislature's newspaper and placed it under control of the executive branch -- moves that the legislature condemned as illegal. Speaker Semyon Sharetsky, who constitutionally is the country's second-ranking official, has been unable to get air time on television.

Last spring, police beat reporters trying to cover demonstrations against Lukashenko and arrested photographers or seized their film. Police searched two newspapers' offices, confiscating notes and files.

In June, unidentified men broke into the apartment of a prominent journalist, Yuri Drakokhrust, and beat his wife, explaining only that she should be sure to recount the incident to her husband.

"We {journalists} disperse our computers and other essential equipment to different places so that if the office is raided we might still be able to work," said Khodosovskiy.

Khodosovskiy's paper is sheltering the staff of another weekly, the English-language Minsk Economic News, which was forced out of its office last month. "We were subletting from a friend of mine and he got a call from the authorities warning that he would have a lot of trouble if he didn't make us leave," said Mikhail Volodin, the Minsk Economic News editor. He said private companies in Minsk have gotten calls warning them to stop advertising in the independent press.

In Washington last week, Belarusan Foreign Minister Uladzimir Syanko said the press was free but declined to discuss specific incidents or government actions against journalists. CAPTION: ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO