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EFJ Statement on the Alarming Situation with Freelance Journalism in Belarus

04.06.2015 Source: Press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Story: Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Violations

At the EFJ Annual Meeting in Budva, Montenegro, June 1 - 2, EFJ made a statement on the situation of freelancers in Belarus.

The EFJ called on Belarusian authorities to drop the practice of holding freelancers accountable for work for foreign mass media without Belarusian accreditation. The union also called on European institutions, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, to pay attention to violations of freelancers' rights in Belarus. The text of the document was proposed by Agneszka Rymashevska-Guzy, head of Belsat, member of teh EFJ Steering Committee, and Andrus Klikunou, coordinator of the For Freelance campaign at BAJ.

EFJ ANNUAL MEETING – BUDVA, MONTENEGRO, JUNE 1-2, 2015

EFJ Statement on the Alarming Situation with Freelance Journalism in Belarus

The actual failure to recognize the existence of freelance journalists, who do not cooperate constantly with any specific media, by the Belarusian official authorities, creates a serious problem for the media workers.

The situation is particularly grave for the freelancers, who cooperate with foreign media, since they are not mentioned in the Belarusian legislation. According to the Belarusian law “On Mass Media”, “a mass medium's journalist” has to be connected with a concrete editorial through labor or other contractual relations. Therefore, freelance journalists are not entitled to receiving the required accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Consequently, the freelance journalists suffer regularly from the prosecution for their journalistic activity without the accreditation. Since April 2014, the freelance journalists, who cooperate with foreign media, have been penalized 22 times for violation of Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus to the fines, which totaled more than EUR 7,000.

This kind of prosecution for the dissemination of information in foreign media is a gross violation of the standards of freedom of expression and violation of journalists' rights.

In connection with the said above, the European Federation of Journalists

- expresses solidarity with freelance journalists in Belarus and supports the struggle of the Belarusian Association of Journalists for the equality of rights of all journalists in the exercise of their professional activities;

- calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately cease pressure on freelance journalists, cooperating with foreign media, and in particular to abandon the practice of bringing them to administrative responsibility;

- calls on the institutions of the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the European Union to pay attention to violations of freedom of speech in Belarus related to the activities of freelance journalists and to take steps to remedy the situation.

Adopted unanimously by EFJ AM delegates on 02.06.2015