On October 6, the judge upheld the motion to transfer the case of Milkavita against AP reporter to the Economic Court of Minsk.
On October 5, Maskouski district court in Minsk started hearing the lawsuit that dairy company Milkavita filed against Yuras Karmanau, Minsk-based reporter for the Associated Press agency.
Milkavita representatives argue that the journalist has inflicted damage to business reputation of the company and demand refutation of his report not only on the website ap.org, but also in some other media. The report “Test finds Chernobyl residue in Belarus milk” was published in AP Exclusive on April 25, 2016. However, official reaction was that radiation in the milk was within the admissible norm.
On the first day of the hearing, the reporter's representative Siarhei Zikratski motioned to transfer the lawsuit to the Economic Court of Minsk. On October 6, the judge upheld the motion.
Andrei Bastunets, chairperson of BAJ, was also admitted to the hearing as representative of Yuras Karmanau. The plaintiff is represented by lawyer Pavel Kaltunovich.
Judge Alena Rudnitskaya forbid photos and video in the court room, and forced out three reporters who tried to take pictures during the process.
BAJ press service asked Yuras Karmanau several questions: what the details of the case were and why, in his view, the official reaction was so negative.
“In our investigation, we showed what really was going on in the zone,” says Yuras Karmanau. In the very zone, in the Poliessie Radioactive Reserve, behind the restriction fence, there is a state farm breeding horses. At the moment when the report was prepared, the farm had 250 horses. And they sold 100 horses to a company in Minsk who advertise mare’s milk.
We found a dairy farm near the radioactive reserve where cows graze the grass a kilometer away from the sign Stop! Radiation! And then the milk is sold to Milkavita factory in Khoiniki. The test revealed strontium surpassing the norm by 10 times!
Also, we showed how abandoned villages are laid to waste, and the territories are plowed and return into agricultural lands.
Finally, we revealed that Belarus has no tests for trans-uranium elements that, according to the official statistics, pollute around 2 per cent of Belarus. Everybody speaks of the danger of americium. And we don’t even have the tests to detect its presence in products.”
“We see that in Belarus Chernobyl issue is tabooed. First, milk has become a white oil for the state, exported to Russia. Milkavita exports 90 per cent of its products to Russia, to Moscow. And it is essential for the state to show that Belarusian milk is safe.
Second, all attempts to investigate the Chernobyl zone are faced with morbid reaction of the officials. The state has closed the issue of Chernobyl. “Radiation is not seen, no one is born with two heads,” told us people from the farms and zone dwellers.
Meantime, the official statistics says that occurrence of thyroid cancer among children is 33 higher than it used to be before the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”