Belsat TV has broken the state-owned television monopoly on reporting Belarusian news. It is one of the reasons why the channel and its journalists are being harassed by the authorities.
In the spring of 2017, Belsat TV contributors have been repeatedly arrested, tried and heavily fined for covering the protests. The total amount of fines reached $9,000. In addition, our journalists spent more than 30 days in prison.
The heaviest fines were imposed on Homiel-based Belsat TV contributors Yauhen Merkis and Larysa Shchyrakova. During the spring they have been tried 4 times and punished for livestreaming the protests in the region. Moreover, Yauhen Merkis was preventively detained by the police before the start of the rally. Our colleague was sentenced to 5 days in jail.
In most cases, Belsat TV contributors were accused of illegal production and distribution of media products (Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code), some of them were charged with disobedience to police (Art. 23.14), disorderly conduct (Art. 17.1) and participating in an unauthorized mass rally(Art. 23.34).
On March 25, the unofficial Freedom Day, Belsat TV cameraman Ales Barazenka was detained and sentenced to 15 days in arrest. He went on hunger strike in protest. Freelance journalist Syarhei Pyatrukhin who is contributing to Belsat Tv also had to spend 15 days behind bars. Orsha police detained Belsat TV reporter Katsyaryna Andreyeva when she was performing her professional duties. Before the trial, the woman was kept in a temporary detention facility for 24 hours.
The Belarus police have repeatedly used violence against our colleagues. For example, policemen beat Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava and damaged their equipment.
The local authorities told journalist Larysa Shchyrakova they would take her son away and put him in a children’s home child if she continued contributing to Belsat TV.
In the course of the protesting spring the Belarusian regime was persecuting journalists working for other media outlets as well, but the war they are waging against Belsat TV is permanent.
In 2016, Belarus took the 157th place of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF); Freedom House placed it on the list of the most repressive countries in the world. In its report for the years 2015 – 2016, Amnesty International stressed that Belsat had been repeatedly denied accreditation in Belarus, which gave a free hand to the regime to a pretext to impose fines on its contributors.
Despite these nuisances, Belsat TV has 80 employees and permanent contributors in Poland and 120 contributors (journalists, reporters, news and video editors, cameramen) in Belarus. Its programming is produced in Minsk, Warsaw, Białystok, Vilnius and Prague.