The cases grounded on video reports about a Lithuanian puppet exhibition in Hrodna, published on Belsat website. The cases started yet in July, but the case materials were sent back to the police for completion. The hearing resumed on August 14, without the journalists’ participation. The witnesses were summoned to court to testify, the artist Aliaksandr Silvanovich and his wife, director of the exhibition hall Iryna Silvanovich.
“The most complicated thing for me in this situation is that the authorities shut off the air. At present, I cannot report in the history museum, in the museum of religions, I cannot report in the puppet theater, and now in the exhibition hall in Azheshka street,” says Ales Dzianisau.
Uladzimir Hilmanovich, human rights defender in Hrodna, also commented on the court decision:
“It looks that the head of state did not solve the issue of freelancers, or these were just empty words thrown at the press conference (the question about the fines imposed on freelancers was addressed to Aliaksandr Lukashenka at a press conference given to independent mass media on August 4). Legally the situation is absurd. It is enough to read in the Administrative Code that the article applied against journalists refers to legal entities only, and does not envisage liability for physical persons.”
The total sum of the fines under art. 22.9 (illegal production and distribution of mass media products) amounted to over 146 million rubles in 2015.