Within the reporting period, two journalists were found guilty of participating in the street action which they covered; it became known how many informational materials were examined by the commission on extremism; and state agencies kept answering to BAJ what they thought about websites blocking in the last decade of December.
Lohvinau tried to dispute six refusals of registration of his bookstore as a distributor of print products; however, the Supreme Court supported the standing of the registering body.
The first month of the year went on with one more fine to a journalist for contribution to foreign mass media without accreditation; also, several journalists’ complaints were dismissed; a blogger was fined for insulting an official on duty; and the Supreme Court upheld the warning issued by the Information Ministry to the independent newspaper Narodnaya Volya.
The amendments tighten state control over informational sphere in Belarus (over the Internet in the first place) and restrict citizens’ right to free expression and the right to gather and disseminate information, guaranteed by the Constitution.
The most remarkable event of the reporting period seems to be the real threat of bankruptcy of the Lohvinau bookstore which has been fined and ordered to pay a billion rubles for “illegal entrepreneur’s activities” –selling books without registration of the Information Ministry. The private enterprise Lohvinau was not registered in 2014 in the newly set-up State Register of distributors of print products although thebookstore had applied for registration six times.
It’s been a month since the military affairs analyst Aliaksandr Alesin was released under recognizance from the KGB detention. The press service of BAJ took an interview with the journalist about developments in the case.
If the court decision comes into legal force, the bookstore will go bankrupt.
On December 22, BAJ appealed to the Prosecutor General, the department on cyber-crimes of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Operative Analytical Center under auspices of the President, asking to investigate massive blocking of several websites in Belarus, to find those guilty and hold them accountable, and to restore access to the websites affected. BAJ underlined that the blocking violated citizens’ rights and lawful interests guaranteed by the Constitution of Belarus, the Criminal and Administrative Codes of Belarus.