Mass Media Week in Belarus Info-posting July 20 – 26, 2015

26.07.2015 Source: The Monitoring Service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

The sum of fines imposed on journalists under art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code already reached 137 million rubles, which is over 8000 euro.

On July 20, BAJ received a reply from the General Prosecutor’s office regarding the organization’s protest against prosecution of freelance journalists. The agency refused to consider the claim on the merits saying there are no grounds for that. The General prosecutor’s office says the chairperson of BAJ is not entitled to being an official representative of the journalists. “The court decision in an administrative case can be appealed by the person whom it concerns, by their representatives, defenders,” says the reply dated July 17. The chairperson of BAJ Andrei Bastunets says the reply is not surprising. “We appealed to the prosecutor’s office not in regard to specific cases. We did it on the grounds of the law on petitions of physical and legal bodies, which we underlined in our petition. In my view, the prosecutor’s office has supervisory powers to issue a protest regarding this or that court ruling. We meant to draw the attention of state agencies to the situation that cannot be deemed lawful.”

Also, on July 9 BAJ sent similar petitions to the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the KGB. BAJ wants public attention and state bodies’ positive response to the situation of freelance journalists who work for mass media outside Belarus, and who are fined for that the mass media are not accredited in Belarus.

On July 20, administrative cases against journalists Ales Kirkevich and Ales Dzianisau were opened on the grounds of a video report about an exhibition of Lithuanian dolls in Hrodna; the material was published on Belsat. The journalists were questioned; witnesses in the case are an artist and his wife, owner of the gallery housing the exhibition. The journalists were already once held liable under the same article 22.9 (illegal production and distribution of mass media products) on April 22, for a report about an exhibition in the local museum.

As became known on July 20, FM-radio Unistar fired journalist Siarhei Hrudnitski. The reason for the dismissal was that the journalist read news from the independent agency BelaPAN on the air. The journalist published this information himself on his Facebook page. The program director of the radio Aliaksandr Nalivaika confirmed the dismissal, but argued that the reason for the dismissal was different: the radio was undergoing organizational and staff changes, he said.

On July 23, the Hlybokaye district court fined journalist Zmitser Lupach for 4.5 million rubles. The chair of court Iryna Kazak found him guilty for violating art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code. The case was based on the article “Relatives revealed of a border guard who died on September 17, 1939 in Hlybokaye district” which was published on June 9 on the website of the Euroradio. The first hearing was scheduled for July 10, but then the case was sent back to the police for completion. Meantime, the journalist had several talks with KGB employees. The journalist publicized the information that he was pressed to cooperate with the special services, but refused to do so.

On July 24, a journalist from Brest Ales Liauchuk had a visitor from the police of Kamianetski district police department. The inspector came from Kamianets to draw up an administrative report according to art. 22.9. The inspector appeared just after the journalist returned from holidays; the inspector told that the information about the journalist’s return came from the Border Committee. The grounds for the case was a report about a religious conflict in a town nearby published on Belsat at the beginning of June. Ales Liauchuk has been fined under art. 22.9 already three times, the sum of the fines is around 20 million rubles, or over 1300 USD.