The authorities’ pressure on our colleagues for their contribution to Belsat continues. As compared to the previous year, the persecution of independent journalists has been stepped up. For the year to date, total fines have reached $20,000.
On May 29, judge Tatsyana Kastsyuk of Leninski district court of Mahiliou imposed fines on journalists Alina Skrabunova and Yauhen Hlushkou (BYN 1,225 і Br 735 respectively) for two news stories – about illegal eviction and forcible suicide. They were televised by Belsat TV.
“You say taking a flat away is no crime, but making the issue public is a crime. How did it come?” the woman who apearred in the news story about eviction asked the judge in court.
According to Alina Skrabunova, Tatsyana Kastsyuk is a judge who delivers politically motivated sentences.
“This is nothing but telephone justice. Six months ago, she found me guilty in another case, also under Article 22.9,” said the journalist.
Alina Skrabunova wanted to remove the judge, but the challenge was turned down.
Persecuting the journalists, the police refers to the second part of the article ‘Violation of mass media law’ and accuses them of involvement in making media products, which is inconsistent of the bove-mentioned article. And it is not the only inconsistency.
Alyaksei Minchonak, a Belsat representative in Belarus, states that Belsat TV journalists, citizens of the Republic of Belarus, are involved in collecting and distributing information.
“It is ensured by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. We believe that we do not break any law. Even if we carefully read Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, we’ll see that it allows to bring to justice only a legal entity,” he said.
Since the beginning of the year, journalists contributed to Belsat have been tried 57 times. The vast majority of trials resulted in fines.
“We have read the protocol of the case which is being processed against us. It was opened during the Chernobyl Path rally. Then the police were filming us working there,” journalist Tatsyana Belashova said. The administrative article is the same, i.e. violation of the law on media.
It took Minsk police officer Dzmitry Byalou the whole working day to question Belsat TV contributors. Six persons – Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Syarhei Kavaliou, Tatsyana Belashova, Vital Dubik, Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel – were summoned to Savetski district police department of Minsk on May, 29.
“I think it is just a waste of human resources, waste of time, the police could have invest time and effort in, for example, finding real criminals, solving real crimes, not in persecuting journalists,” said Katsyaryna Andreyeva.
The sad truth is the independent journalists’ cases is a revenue source for the state budget: in 2017, the total amount of fines for their contribution to Belsat TV reached BYN 52,693; for the first five months of 2018, it has already exceeded BYN 41,000.