MEDIA FREEDOM
Belarus: Press freedom violations April 2019
30 Apr 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.

12 Incidents

Bank account of freelance journalist arrested over not having paid fines for work without accreditation

30 April 2019 – Homel freelancer Andrei Tolchyn was summoned to the executor in conjunction with his four unpaid fines and told that his bank account had been arrested and he would have ten days to pay them.

He was sentenced to heavy fines for ‘illegal production of media content’ without accreditation for the TV channel Belsat. The total amount of the fines is 3200 Belarusian rubles (1,523 dollars).

Update:

Tolchyn’s account was unlocked after the fines had been paid.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/u-zhurnalista-frylansera-andreya-tolchyna-aryshtavali-rahunak-u-belarusbanku

https://baj.by/be/content/belarusbank-razblakavau-rahunak-zhurnalista-frylansera-raney-zablakavany-z-za-shtrafau

Category: Legal Measures

Source of violation: State Agency

Two Brest freelancers fined

18 April 2019 – Freelance journalists Ales Liauchuk and Milana Kharytonava were fined 1,275 Belarusian rubles (about 600 dollars) each for their cooperation with Belsat TV without accreditation. The decision was taken by the chairperson of the Brest district court.

Link: https://belsat.eu/ru/news/brestskih-nezavisimyh-zhurnalistov-snova-oshtrafovali-bolshie-dengi-vzyskali-s-tretej-popytki/

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Leading independent media not accredited to annual message of president Lukashenko

18 April 2019 – Journalists for the leading news website TUT.BY, the news agency BelaPAN, the newspaper Belorusy I Rynok, and European Radio for Belarus were not accredited to cover the annual message of Alexander Lukashenko to the people and the National Assembly on 19 April 2019.

Two of them, BelaPAN`s Tattyana Karavenkova and special correspondent for European Radio for Belarus Zmitser Lukashuk, are permanently accredited in the parliament.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/zhurnalistau-nedzyarzhaunyh-smi-ne-akredytavali-na-paslanne-lukashenki

Category: Blocked Access

Source of violation: State Agency

Blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin sentenced to large fine in criminal trial

18 April 2019 – A judge for the Leninski district court of Brest passed a sentence in the criminal case against blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin. He was convicted under Art. 188 (Slander) and Art. 189 (Insult) of the Criminal Code. The reason for initiating his criminal case was an appeal of a police officer over a video on the blogger`s YouTube channel Narodnyj Reportior.

The blogger was fined around 9180 Belarusian rubles (4,590 dollars). Piatrukhin was also obliged to recompense moral damage to four policemen. In total the blogger has to pay 8,840 dollars. In addition, the judge also ordered him to pay legal fees.

This amount should be paid within a month. It is also reported that the blogger made a written undertaking not to leave a place and his property was distrained.

Link: http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/4/18/330954/

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Court

Journalist with photo camera banned from entering into local government premises

Correspondent for the independent newspaper Hazeta Slonimskaya Krystsina Saladukha who came to make pictures of the exhibition of a housing building project launched a day before was banned from entering into the building of Slonim local government in the Hrodna region. A security guard told her she was not entitled to pass people with photographic equipment without a special permission.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/zhurnalistka-pryyshla-sfatagrafavac-praekt-yae-navat-ne-puscili-u-rayvykankam

Category: Blocked Access

Source of violation: Public official

Freelance journalist Lupach fined twice for a month

15 April 2019 – Hlybokaye-based freelance journalist Zmitser Lupach stood trial in the Sharkaushchyna district court for contributing to Belsat TV without accreditation. A judge imposed on him a fine of 892.5 Belarusian rubles (about $440) over his news story about the weak economy situation and low salaries in the district.

Link: https://belsat.eu/en/news/collecting-negative-opinions-freelance-journo-fined-for-contributing-to-belsat-tv/

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Freelance journalist Yauhen Skrabets fined the second day in a row

12 April 2019 – In Brest, freelance journalist Yauhen Skrabets fined 765 Belarusian rubles (364 dollars) following a police report under Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences for “production of information content for a foreign media outlet which was not accredited in the Republic of Belarus.” His article titled Activists And Independent Journalists Not Allowed Into the Press Conference at the I-Power Plant had appeared on the website of Belarusian Radio Racyja based in Poland.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/sud-bresckaga-rayona-pakarau-frylansera-yaugena-skrabca-chargovym-shtrafam

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Freelance journalist fined in Mahiliou

11 April 2019 – A judge in the Leninski district court of Mahiliou ruled to fine freelance journalist Alina Skrabunova 1275 Belarusian rubles (approximately 600 dollars). She was found guilty of “participation in the illegal production of media content” as her video on the opening of an inclusive cafe where wheelchair users work had been broadcasted on the TV channel Belsat.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/za-syuzhet-pra-lyudzey-z-invalidnascyu-zhurnalistku-pakarali-shtrafam-u-50-bazavyh

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Freelance journalist fined in two cases

11 April 2019 – The Hlybokaye district court fined independent journalist Zmitser Lupach 1,020 Belarusian rubles ($485) in total in two cases. He was tried under Article 22.9 (illegal production and/or distribution of media content) and under Article 23.34 (violation of the procedure for organizing or conducting mass events) of the Code of Administrative Offences. In the first case, the journalist was punished for his report on the TV channel Belsat and, in the second case, for raising a white-red-white flag during Freedom Day, the anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic.

Link: http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/4/11/330183/

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Freelance journalist fined in Brest

11 April 2019 – The Leninski district court of Brest considered a case against freelance journalist Yauhen Skrabets under Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offenses over his working for a foreign media outlet without accreditation. The police report states he “interviewed without accreditation, thus violating the rights and obligations of a foreign media journalist.” As a result, a judge fined the journalist BYN 765 ($364).

Link: http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/4/11/330204/

Category: Fines

Source of violation: Police, Court

Police raid Belsat TV office in Minsk

9 April 2018 – Police searched the office of Belsat TV channel in Minsk under a search warrant of the Investigative Committee. An official representative of the Investigative Committee Siarhei Kabakovich confirmed that the search was carried out as part of the investigation of a slander case under Article 188 of the Criminal Code.

In the summer 2018 Belsat TV journalist Ales Zaleuski prepared a video story about corruption at the Minsitry of Health Care, reporting about arrest of Aleh Shved, head of the state-owned enterprise Medtechnocenter. However, the text version on the channel’s website did not repeat the video. The text said, Aleh Shved was arrested together with his brother Andrei, head of the State Committee of Forensic Examination. Editors corrected the mistake and published the retraction immediately after the mistake was noticed. However, Andrei Shved addressed Minister of the Interior asking to prosecute me under criminal charges. In November 2018, the Investigation Committee decided there were no grounds to start criminal proceedings.

However, in January 2019 Minsk city prosecutor’s office instigated a new investigation and brought the case back to the Investigative Committee. Zaleuski believes, there are no other criminal cases against the TV channel staff. According to the journalist, they are looking for the person who published the text under the video story on the website. They have already carried out interrogations with a video camera. The witnesses in the case are Ales Zaleuski, cameraman Aliaxander Lubianchuk, and Belsat representatives Aliaksei Minchonak and Iryna Slaunikava.

During the search, the police seized two computer system units, three laptops, and all data storage media.

Update: Two days later all the equipment seized was returned to Belsat TV.

Link(s): https://belsat.eu/en/news/investigators-raiding-belsat-tv-office-in-minsk/

https://baj.by/en/content/minsk-police-raid-and-search-belsat-office-slander-charges-office-has-been-crushed

http://charter97.link/en/news/2019/4/9/329891/

https://baj.by/en/content/minsk-office-belsat-gets-back-equipment-seized-during-recent-search

Categories: Interrogation, Attack to Property

Source of violation: State Agency, Police

Police hinder journalist’s work while demolishing crosses in Kurapaty

4 April 2019 – Deputy head of the Minsk police department Siarhei Udodau barred journalists from working in Kurapaty near Minsk, where builders were demolishing crosses erected around a people’s memorial to the victims of Stalin’s repressions.

When Deutsche Welle Pauliuk Bykouski said that, under the law, he is entitled to be present at the place of public events, Udodau threatened to detain him for disobeying the police. A similar incident occurred with the correspondent of the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty Aleh Hruzdzilovich.

Euroradio’s Raman Pratasevich said a man in civilian clothes elbowed the journalist’s camera and stood in front of the photographer to hinder filming how the crosses were being demolished. Belsat TV cameraperson Iryna Arakhouskaya was also prevented from recording. Before that, men in civilian clothes prevented journalists from filming the detention of protesters.

Links: https://baj.by/be/content/fakty-perashkodau-u-pracy-zhurnalistau-padchas-padzey-u-kurapatah-4-krasavika

Category: Blocked Access, Physical Assault

Source of violation: Police

Ministry of information bans distribution of BelGazeta issue through newsstand chain

2 April 2019 – An issue of the weekly BelGazeta was withdrawn from the newsstand chain Belsayuzdruk on the recommendation of the ministry of information. The number contained, in particular, humorous pieces and a cartoon on cows. This was due to the fact that President Lukashenko roughly criticized the sanitary condition of the cows on a farm in the Shklou district and this was followed by the deprivation of a number of officials at various levels.

BelGazeta editor-in-chief Kiryl Zhyvalovich visited the ministry of information and had a conversation with the minister. Zhyvalovich refused to specify which articles the ministry had claims against, he just noted that there were several such materials.

Regarding this incident, the Minister of Information Aliaksandr Karliukevich said that “it is unacceptable when media outlets or websites, intentionally hyperbolizing critical claims, falling into open vulgarity and loutishness.”

Links: http://mininform.gov.by/news/all/v-ministerstvo-informatsii-postupilo-neskolko-obrashcheniy/

https://euroradio.fm/ru/belgazeta-mu

https://belsat.eu/ru/news/sistemnoe-hamstvo-i-hamskaya-sistema/

Category: Censorship

Source of violation: State Agency

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