Belarusian authorities rarely allow independent journalists to cover official events; moreover, there have recently been increasingly frequent arrests, trials and fines.
From the beginning of the year, the total sum of fines imposed has amounted to more than $11,000. Only recently, journalists Ales Silich, Maryia Artsybashava and Syarzhyk Kavalyou were summoned to court.
On August 24, the administrative case of our journalist Stanislau Ivashkevich will be heard. A protocol was drawn upon Stanislau for the story ‘The Village in Lida District Drowning in Pig Manure’, which was aired by Belsat on June 30 this year. He may face a fine of 50 basic units (1,150 BYN). On August 25, our journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva will appear before court for livestreaming a protest rally on 3 July and the Airborne Forces Day celebration on July 29.
“They have only one method of pressure – to seize equipment and draw a protocol upon a journalists. There is no other leverage,” Andreyeva said.
The official reason is worded as follows: illegal production and distribution of media products (Art.22.9 of the Administrative Code). In other words, our journalists are punished for working without accreditation. Belsat TV has repeatedly submitted corresponding requests to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but in vain. Ales Silich, who often works abroad, stresses that in contrast to Belarus, getting accreditation is not a problem in EU countries.
“If your media outlet does not violate the law, does not call for violence, such accreditation may be obtained within a few days. But our attempts to register Belsat in Belarus are like just some horrible tale. For unknown reasons, we are denied accreditation,” Silich adds.
Alyaksei Minchonak, the official representative of Belsat TV in Minsk, believes that the persecution of journalists is not for nothing:
“I think that itcan be attributed to the fact that the authorities are preparing for another protest campaign in the autumn. They want to neutralize and intimidate journalists.”
Homiel-based freelance journalist Kastus Zhukouski has hit a record in receiving penalties for working without accreditation in Belarus. Over the last three years, he has been fined 17 times; the total sum reached $6,000. Now he is facing confiscation of property over unpaid fines he was given for contributing to Belsat TV.