Volha Czajczyc in 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.
The journalists believe the regulations that fail to meet the Constitution need to be removed from media legislation.
Usually our contributors are tried for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’ (Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code), i.e. for working for Belsat TV without accreditation.
“The constitution gives me the right to collect and distribute information. In our first-instance courts, I failed to prove that I have such right. So we decided to appeal to the Constitutional Court,” Volha Czajczyc stresses. Last year seven fines were imposed on her.
“One always should to make a try, even if a task seems to be impossible, we should try – and we may succeed,” cameraman Andrus Kozel says.
However, the duo was prevented from filming the process of handing over their appeal to the Constitutional Court, which is a violation of the Belarusian legislation. No confirmation of acceptance was given to them either.
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.