Svyatlana Ivanova, a judge at Vitsebsk regional court, has quashed the decision of a district court.
On March 6, Aksana Kabola, a judge at Sharkaushchyna district court, imposed a fine of 588 rubles on Hlybokaye-based freelance journalist Zmitser Lupach for contributing to a news story about low salaries which was televised by Belsat in early January.
Today first instance judgment has been dismissed due to the fact that more than two months have passed since the filming more than two months (our crew was working on the story as far back as December 30, 2017). Therefore, Lupach’s case was beyond the statute of limitations.
It is the second time Zmitser Lupach has been fined in 2018. Earlier, Pastavy district court found Hlybokaye-based journalist Zmitser Lupach guilty under Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code (violation of media legislation) and imposed a fine of 612.5 Belarusian rubles on him. The administrative protocol was drawn upon Lupach for his allegedly contributing to a Belsat TV news item about the shortage of fertilizers.
In 2017, Lupach was penalised four times.
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.