MEDIA FREEDOM
Belarus: Press freedom violations March 2019
31 Mar 2019
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project tracks press freedom violations in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Learn more.

6 Incidents

Two Belsat TV contributors fined in Brest

21 March 2019 – Brest-based journalist duo, Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava, were found guilty of illegal production and distribution of media content, i.e. for contributing to Belsat TV. A judge slapped fines in the amount of 2,250 Belarusian rubles (about $1,100). The trial was based on police reports filed by local policemen.

Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava have been repeatedly spotted covering the protests against the construction of a battery factory near Brest and interviewing locals. The crew has already trialed many times over making reports about the situation in the city.

Source: https://belsat.eu/en/news/belarus-authorities-set-to-make-us-stop-contributing-to-belsat-journalist/

Category: Fines

Source(s) of violation: Police, Court

Blogger detained under charges of bomb threat

20 March 2019 – The police detained and interrogated Andrey Pavuk, a prominent Belarusian blogger residing in the town of Aktsyabrski in Homel region.

In the morning, police officers rang the blogger`s doorbell and immediately handcuffed him. Then they explained that the Ministry of Emergency Situations received a message about bombinb the local government building allegedly from his email.

Pavuk was brought to the local department of the Investigative Committee. There he was interrogated while his apartment was being searched. The blogger was told he was held as a suspect in a criminal case under Art. 340 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (Deliberately false danger warning). He was released at about 5.30 p.m.

Update:

17 April 2019 – A charge against blogger Andrei Pavuk was dropped, but the equipment seized during the search was not returned due to it to be subject to expert examination.

Update:

6 June 2019 – All the equipment seized was returned to Pavuk by the police.

Links: https://belsat.eu/en/news/criminal-case-looming-reputed-blogger-arrested-over-alleged-bomb-threat/

https://belsat.eu/ru/news/obvinenie-snyali-no-konfiskovannuyu-tehniku-ne-vernuli/

https://baj.by/be/content/praz-dva-z-palovay-mesyacy-blogeru-pavuku-vyarnuli-adabranuyu-tehniku-ale-bez-vybachennyau

Category: Criminal Charges, Detention, Interrogation, Attack to Property

Source(s) of violation: Police, State Agency

Two Russian journalists detained by the police on suspicion of disseminating extremist literature

16 March 2019 – In Minsk, the police detained Russian journalists for Moloko Plus almanac Pavel Nikulin and Jan Potarsky. Three hours later, they were released without any police reports. However, the police seized their presentation materials to examine them for extremist content.

The Russian journalists had arrived to Minsk to hold a workshop how to raise money for a project and to organize work in a ‘horizontal’ editorial staff.

Source: https://baj.by/be/content/naydena-literatura-ekstremistskogo-haraktera-v-milicii-obyasnili-zaderzhanie-rossiyskih

Category: Detention

Source(s) of violation: Police

Freelance journalist fined for contributing to Belsat TV

15 March 2019 – The Vitsebsk district court found Vitaly Skryl guilty of illegal production and distribution of media content under Art. 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences. He was sentenced to a fine of 637,5 Belarusian rubles (more than 300 dollars) for his video on the closure of an enterprise in Sianno, Vitsebsk region shown on the TV channel Belsat.

Source: https://www.racyja.com/hramadstva/vitsebskaga-zhurnalista-ashtrafavali-z/?fbclid=IwAR1sPxXDQnq3VXPi3FiyPFm6Fx03UwMXyz8nKjtvB39AeQqzr0xbeFiWabM

Category: Fines

Source(s) of violation: Police, Court

Prominent blogger banned from attending press conference

15 March 2019 – Blogger Siarhey Piatrukhin was blocked from a briefing by Henadz Barysiuk, deputy chairman of the Brest regional government. At the entrance to the premises he was met by assistant of the officer Yauhen Viktarovich who did not allow the blogger to enter referring to the lack of accreditation, forbidden filming and called the police. Piatrukhin learned later that not all journalists and bloggers who were at the briefing were accredited.

Source: https://baj.by/be/content/blogera-ne-puscili-na-bryfing-starshyni-bresckaga-abvykankama

Category: Blocked access

Source(s) of violation: Public official

Blogger summoned and interrogated by the police in connection with an ‘offensive’ comment under his video

10 March 2019 – Blogger Pavel Spiryn was interrogated by the police in connection with an ‘offensive’ comment under his video.

According to Spiryn, employees of the Minsk city government created an account on behalf of the deputy head of the administration of the Leninski district of Minsk Siarhei Pavachka. They posted a photo of the official on the page. And then someone posted a comment on behalf of this account under a video on the blogger`s YouTube channel.

Then Pavachka said he had not left this comment and appealed to the Leninski district police department of Minsk over the fact of him having been insulted. A police officer called and invited Pavel Spiryn to a conversation as a witness within an investigation under Article 189 of the Criminal Code.

The police also conducted a search of the blogger’s apartment authorized by the prosecutor. As a result, a computer hard drive was seized.

Source: http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/3/11/326415/

Category: Interrogation, Attack to Property

Source(s) of violation: Police

Blogger and his parents have residences searched

7 March 2019 – Prominent blogger Aliaksandr Kabanau`s and his parents` residences in the town of Biaroza in the Brest region were searched by the police. It became known that a criminal case under Art. 211(1) of the Criminal Code was filed against him. Kabanau was accused of the peculation while he was being chairman of housing association in 2017. The case was initiated due to an appeal of a police officer, a member of the association.

Update: 8 July 2019

The criminal case was dismissed for absence of a crime, according to Charter 97.

Sources: http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/3/7/325941/

https://baj.by/be/content/u-blogera-aleksandra-kabanova-iz-berezy-proshli-obyski

https://charter97.link/en/news/2019/7/10/340754/

Category: Attack to Property

Source(s) of violation: Police/State security

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Russia: As space for independent media shrinks, journalists find themselves under increasing threats of physical violence

This report looks at 175 incidents that Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project classified as threats, limitations or violations of press freedom in Russia between 1 February 2019 and 30 April 2019.

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