In March 2017, Belarusian mass media faced with extraordinary pressure and repressions exerted by the authorities. The month has been the worst time since 2011.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists registered 123 cases of violations of journalists’ rights so far since the start of March.
The incidents include:
6 incidents of beating journalists by police;
3 incidents of damaging journalists’ equipment;
2 incidents of seizure of equipment;
40 administrative cases.
Journalists have been on trial under several article of the Administrative Code of Violations, namely:
art. 22.9 for illegal production of mass media products (i.e. for work without accreditation);
art. 23.34 for violating the procedure for organizing or holding mass events (like participants of an unsanctioned mass event);
art. 23.4 for disobedience to lawful police’s demands;
art. 17.1 for minor hooliganism,
and some others.
In 10 cases journalists were punished with arrests varying from 5 to 15 days, in 4 cases journalists were fined for up to 40 basic amounts (which makes 920 BYN, or equivalent to 460 euro). Over 10 cases are yet to be resolved in court.
On March 31, two Minsk offices of Belsat TV channel (part of Polish public TV, broadcasting via satellite specifically for Belarusian audience, by Belarusian journalists) were searched, and equipment was seized. The police of the Minsk City Executive Committee said the actions followed a request of the trademark owner (Belsat Plus seller of satellite equipment, see background of the case) to protect its copyright.
PA BAJ supports the stance that, in fact, the authorities pursue a different goal – to stop activities of independent TV journalists in Belarus, especially during mass actions of protest.
BAJ reminds of its statement dated March 12, 2017 and reiterates its demands:
– To hold an immediate investigation of the massive violation of journalists’ rights by representatives of law enforcement agencies;
– To identify those responsible for violations of journalists’ rights and to hold them liable;
– To take necessary measures to prevent violations of journalists’ rights in future;
– To protest against the court rulings on holding the journalists liable according to administrative law for that they had only implemented their professional duties; to overturn the decisions on fines, to release journalists under arrest;
– And to return professional equipment and other equipment to journalists.