MEDIA FREEDOM
Belarus: Press freedom violations October 2019
28 Nov 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

Court upholds local council’s decision to deny a journalist accreditation

17 October 2019 – The Economic Court of the Brest Region dismissed an appeal from independent regional newspaper Hantsavitski Chas against a court decision in September, which ruled to uphold Hantsavichy Local Council’s decision to deny accreditation to Hantsavitski Chas journalists.

Hantsavitski Chas’ editor-in-chief, Piotr Huzajeuski, said that he believed that the journalists are being deprived of their right to cover events held by the local council.

In March 2019, the editorial board of the newspaper Hantsavitski Chas sent a letter to the local council asking to accredit its journalists to cover the council’s activities. However, the leadership of the council denied them the accreditation, referring to the fact that a procedure for accrediting journalists by this institution had not been established.

Link:

https://baj.by/be/content/sud-adhiliu-apelyacyyu-gancavickaga-chasu-nakont-admovy-u-akredytacyi-zhurnalistau

https://baj.by/be/content/sud-abavyazau-savet-deputatau-raspracavac-palazhenne-ab-akredytacyi-zhurnalistau

http://www.ganc-chas.by/by/page/news/18156/

http://www.ganc-chas.by/by/page/news/17842/

Category: Blocked Access, Legal Measures

Source(s) of violation: Court/Juducial, Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Journalist barred from attending a session of the election commission in Minsk

A billboard showing some of the candidates for November’s parliamentary election.

17 October 2019 – Journalist Volha Bykouskaya of the independent online newspaper Bdg.by was not allowed to attend the election commission in the Minsk district, where one of the candidates in attendance was Yury Hubarevich, chairman of the oppositional Movement for Freedom.

The commission demanded accreditation papers from her and told her to leave the room, ignoring her press card. The journalist appealed to the Central Election Commission, which responded that Belarusian journalists do not need any accreditation to attend such events.

Separately, the Belarusian Association of Journalists contacted the District Election Commission #107 for an explanation. The Commission’s representatives claimed that the journalist had been asked to show her press card, and failed to do so.

Link: https://baj.by/en/content/journalist-volha-bykouskaya-barred-meeting-election-commission-minsk

Category: Blocked Access

Source(s) of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Freelance journalist denied accreditation for the 11th time 

17 October 2019 – Hrodna journalist Viktar Parfionenka has been denied accreditation by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That was his eleventh attempt to get official permission to work as a reporter for the Belarusian Radio Racyja, which is headquartered in Poland.

Since 2009, Parfionenka has been trying to obtain accreditation to be able to legally contribute to Radio Racyja. Each year he compiled a set of documents necessary for accreditation, but has so far failed become accredited.

This year he was denied again, under paragraph 15.4 of the Regulations on Accreditation of Foreign Journalists: “To refuse accreditation to journalists of a foreign media outlet for 6 months after known facts of this outlet using the services of unaccredited journalists and (or) other persons without accreditation.”

Link: https://baj.by/en/content/radio-racyja-journalist-denied-accreditation-11th-time https://vitebskspring.org/vyasna/4157-mzs-bielarusi-nie-akredytavala-viktara-parfionienku-11y-raz

Category: Blocked Access, Legal Measures

Source(s) of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

 

DDoS attack on Onliner.by news site

10 October 2019 – One of the most popular Belarusian websites, Onliner.by, appeared to have been the target of a significant DDoS attack. The website administrators reported difficulty loading the page and users reported having difficulty accessing the website. Suspicious activity was reported in users’ profiles.

Onliner.by, which is a news site that focuses mainly on digital technology, informed their audience about the incident and apologised for the inconvenience. An editorial letter suggested that website users improved their profiles’ security by changing their passwords and enabling two-step verification.

Link: https://tech.onliner.by/2019/10/10/ddos-4

https://baj.by/be/content/onliner-podvergaetsya-ddos-atake

Category: DDoS/Hacking/Doxing

Source(s) of violation: Unknown

 

YouTube blogger detained after covering opposition rally

5 October 2019 – Video blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who is behind the popular YouTube channel Country for Life, was detained in central Minsk after he carried out a live broadcast of opposition politician Mikalai Statkevich’s pre-election rally.

Tsikhanouski said during the live broadcast that his car was surrounded by six traffic police cars, and that he was told that unpaid fines were registered to his car. Then the blogger was told to drive to the Leninski District Police Department. There he was informed that his car might have been stolen. After having filed a police report, he was released. He spent two hours at the police station.

UPDATE: 15 October 2019 – Tsikhanouski was fined 12.75 rubles for violating traffic rules. The blogger told Radio Liberty that he thought that it was unlikely that six traffic police cars were involved in his arrest only to give him a small fine. He said that he thought that the police wanted to confiscate the equipment, with which we were conducting the live broadcasting, or that they simply wanted to intimidate them. He said that because he let many people know that he was in the police department, people were calling him and going to the police department.

Link(s): https://belsat.eu/ru/news/avtora-kanala-strana-dlya-zhizni-zaderzhivali-shest-ekipazhej-gai/

https://www.svaboda.org/a/30201950.html

https://www.svaboda.org/a/30216368.html

Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation,

Source(s) of violation: Police

 

Blogger Andrei Pavuk subjected to attempts to frame him 

4 October 2019 – Blogger Andrei Pavuk was contacted by a duty officer of the Aktsiabrski district police department, who stated that the police had received a phone call, allegedly from the blogger’s phone number. The police said that the man on the phone, who claimed to be Andrei Pavuk, said that he had “killed his wife Volha and her lover.” The male caller also provided the blogger’s home address. Pavuk’s wife, who was with him at the time of the police call, had to explain the officer that the call was a hoax. She then filed a police report, demanding that the perpetrator be found.

The attempts to frame Pavuk came as the court is considering his lawsuit against local police for compensation for non-pecuniary damages from the police for his unlawful detention and search in March 2019.

On 20 March, the Ministry of Emergency Situations received a hoax message about a mine at a local government building, allegedly sent from Pavuk’s email. The blogger was detained and searched, and his equipment was confiscated.

Link(s): https://udf.by/news/main_news/200208-ja-ubil-svoju-zhenu-i-ee-ljubovnika-neizvestnye-terrorizirujut-semju-izvestnogo-blogera.html

https://naviny.by/article/20191006/1570369644-blogeru-andreyu-pauku-pozvonili-iz-milicii-utochnit-ubival-li-svoyu

Category: Online Defamation/Discredit/Harassment/Verbal Abuse

Source(s) of violation: Unknown 

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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