MEDIA FREEDOM
Belarus: Press freedom violations September 2019
21 Oct 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.

5 Incidents

Public official sues Telegram blogger

26 September 2019 – The head of the Slonim district government Henadz Khomich sued Stiapan Putsila (better known by his pseudonym Stsiapan Sviatlou), the blogger behind NEXTA, one

Blogger Stsiapan Sviatlou is being sued by the head of Slonim district government

of Belarus’ most popular Telegram channels.

Khomich’s is suing Putsila for 50,000 roubles (nearly £20,000) worth of compensation for what he says is “moral damage” for a post that Putsila published in August 2019. In the post, Putsila said that Khomich had been detained for drunk driving and suggested that corruption was involved. Similar lawsuits have been filed against news websites belaruspartisan.by, 21.by, and bobruisk.ru, which republished the message.

Link(s): https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=238079&lang=ru

https://nn.by/?c=ar&i=238083

Category: Subpoena/Court Order/Lawsuits

Source(s) of violation: Known private individual(s)

 

Blogger receives threats 

24 September 2019 – Blogger Andrei Pavuk from the town of Aktsiabrski in the Homel region received threats from an unknown person via Viber.

The messages were received on the eve of the court hearing of his lawsuit against the police aimed at receiving compensation for an unlawful search and detention, which Pavuk believes was done to intimidate him and to exert psychological pressure on him.

In March 2019, police raided Pavuk’s apartment, seized his professional equipment, handcuffed him and brought to the local department of the Investigative Committee for interrogation. The blogger was told he was held on suspicion of knowingly submitting a false danger warning to the authorities under under Art. 340 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Investigators alleged that the Ministry of Emergency Situations received a warning message from his email.

Link(s):https://euroradio.fm/ru/blogeru-andreyu-pauku-ugrozhayut-s-filippin-podumay-padla

https://baj.by/be/content/skazhy-dzyakuy-shto-nichoga-tabe-ne-padkinuli-blogeru-andreyu-pavuku-daslali-pagrozy-i

Category: Online Defamation/Discredit/Harassment/Verbal Abuse

Source(s) of violation: Unknown

Police filed report against Belsat TV journalists

19 September 2019 – Darya Chultsova, a Mahiliou-based freelance journalist, was summoned to Bialynichy District Police Department for questioning. Because she is not associated with an accredited news outlet, a police report was filed against her for illegally producing and distributing media content under Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

The police report stated that on 21 August 2019, Chultsova interviewed students’ parents at a high school. The next day, the interviews were allegedly shown on Belsat TV.

Link(s): https://baj.by/ru/content/posle-zatishya-vozobnovilos-presledovanie-zhurnalistov-za-sotrudnichestvo-s-belsatom

https://baj.by/be/content/sud-adpraviu-spravu-zhurnalistki-dari-chulcovay-na-dapracouku

Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation, Criminal Charges/Fines/Sentences, Subpoena/Court Order/Lawsuits                    

Source(s) of violation: Police/State security

Freelance journalist fined for working without accreditation

18 September 2019 – Freelance journalist Zmitser Mitskevich was fined by Pastavy District Court (Vitsebsk region) for contributing to Belsat TV. Because he is not associated with an accredited news outlet, he was charged with illegally producing and distributing media content under Art. 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

Link: https://baj.by/en/analytics/fines-journalists-violating-article-229-administrative-code-chart-updated

Category: Criminal Charge/Fines/Sentences

Source(s) of violation: Police/State security

 

Bloggers sued for covering environmental protests

17 September 2019 – Brest-based bloggers Siarhei Piatrukhin and Aliaksandr Kabanau learned that they are being sued for defamation by the lead-acid battery plant, I-Power, at the Brest Region Economic Court.

The lawsuit stems from the journalists’ interview with two environmental activists who claimed that contamination resulted from environmental violations committed by I-Power. The interview appeared on the YouTube channel Narodnyj Reportior.

It is not the first time that Kabanau and Piatrukhin have been sued by I-Power: in 2018, a judge ordered the bloggers to remove their YouTube video about the construction of I-Power’s battery plant and to publish an apology.

Link: https://baj.by/be/content/blogery-syargey-pyatruhin-i-alyaksandr-kabanau-raptouna-apynulisya-adkazchykami-u-sprave-ab

Category: Subpoena/Court Order/Lawsuits

Source(s) of violation: Known private individual(s)

Free speech and human rights organisations call for Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and other journalists to be released

Ahead of the second hearing in the retrial of Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and four other journalists and media workers, free speech organisations call for all detained defendants to be released and for the charges to be dropped

Index on Censorship calls for release of Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera

Index on Censorship calls for the release of Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera who has been held in prison for two months

Turkey urged to halt its assault on media freedom and civil society

Thirteen international organisations have submitted a statement to UN Human Rights Council calling on Turkey to halt is crackdown on the media.

Council of Europe’s new secretary-general must enhance efforts to protect press freedom

Twenty-two international organisations have written an open letter on freedom of expression to the new secretary-general of the Council of Europe.

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