Karelichy district court has punished journalist Volha Czajczyc and cameraman Andrus Kozel for ‘work without accreditation’.
Our colleagues reported about the situation of a local man who complained of grave labour conditions and was fired soon. The news story was televised by Belsat:
Judge Iryna Kasko imposed a fine (980 Belarusian rubles) on each. Our colleagues decided not to appear before court.
“There is no point in showing at these hearing, when the court decides upon the sentence in advance and it is a political decision, when our testimonies mean nothing. It makes sense only if we can draw people’s attention to the story we covered, and for which we are tried,” Volha Czajczyc explained.
It is the fifth time Volha Czajczyc has stood trial in 2018. As for Andrus Kozel, it has been his third trial this year. Moreover, the previous hearing was postponed as the duo was absent. The exact date of the next hearing was not reported, but the journalists were warned that force might be used to take them to court.
In 2017, freelance journalists Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel paid 8,556 Belarusian rubles to the state budget. The crew was repeatedly fined for contribution to Belsat TV.
According to Reporters Without Borders, it is our journalists who are harassed by Belarusian government agencies most. In 2017, Belsat TV journalists paid over $ 14,000 of fines. 94% of fines for the so-called illegal production of media products fell on Belsat TV contributors, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported.
Belsat TV which has been broadcasting over ten years, has been repeatedly denied accreditation for its journalists in Belarus. The Foreign Ministry has declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat because the journalists working for the TV station … break the law.
Thus, the circle closes: journalists are denied accreditation because they break the law and they break the law, because they work without accreditation that they seek… And it explains the existence of absurdist Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If you have accreditation, you are allowed be a journalist. If you do not have it – you are outlawed.