The Belarusian Association of Journalists sent a request to the President’s Administration with the view to clarifying the reasons for the renewed persecution against some journalists under article 22.9.
The letter was sent on January 6 to the head of the Administration Aliaksandr Kasinets.
Aliaksandr Lukashenka, replying to the issue raised by the ‘Radio Liberty’ journalist Valery Kalinouski at a press conference on August 4, 2015, said: “I think that it’s nonsense… It is not my principle to ban something. I will look into this problem. As for the fines, we will examine the problem, too. These are not rich people, and I understand it. I promise you that I will consider this issue. It is not because we meet. It is because you apparently have the point here. We will address this problem.”
After that, no new cases according to article 22.9 appeared, and this fact was assessed positively, in particular, by the European Federation of Journalists.
However, at the end of December 2015, three cases at once were launched against Belarusian journalists in the Homel region.
On December 24, Larysa Shchyrakova was called to the police department to receive a police report for violating article 22.9 of Belarus Code on Administrative Offenses, and a similar summons was given to her colleague Kastus Zhukouski on December 28.
We consider resumption of this practice unacceptable and damaging the reputation of the state and the head of state.
Having in mind the issue raised and the statement of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian Association of Journalists:
- Expresses grave concerns over the resumed practice of holding journalists accountable just because they perform their professional duties;
- Encourages to put an end to the ungrounded interference of law enforcement agencies with the journalists’ rights to receive, store and disseminate information, freedom of expression and opinion, guaranteed by article 33 and 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus;
We suggest discussing the issues concerned at a meeting between official representatives of the President’s Administration, other state bodies and representatives of BAJ, other persons concerned.
Prosecution of journalists according to article 22.9 lasted from April 2014 until August 2015, with the total number of cases 38. The total sum of the fines in 2015 amounted to 8000 euro (See the Chart)
BAJ lawyers and international community think that such persecution violates the citizens’ rights to receive and impart information and their freedom of expression, guaranteed by Belarusian Constitution.