On February 16, the case of Belsat TV journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva and camerawoman Darya Chultsova continued to be heard in Frunzenski district court of Minsk. The judge is Natallya Buhuk.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova were arrested on November 15 for broadcasting live a violent dispersal of a rally in memory of murdered protester Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of a national memorial in the so called Square of Change by security forces. They were filming and commenting on what was going on from the apartment on the 14th floor of the house on Smarhouski Trakt Street in Minsk, where they had been invited by the hosts. After the rally, armed riot police broke the door to the apartment and detained the girls.
At first, Katsya and Dasha had administrative reports filed against them under Article 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code. They were accused of allegedly participating in an unauthorized protest and disobeying the police. On November 17, a Minsk court sentenced them to 7 days of administrative arrest for their professional activities. The court ruling said that Katsyaryna and Darya had committed an offense, but their actions did not constitute a crime.
However, contrary to the court’s findings, a criminal case was launched against Belsat journalists right at that time. On November 20, they were charged under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order). The girls were kept in custody and transferred to Zhodzina prison and kept in separate cells. The two media workers are facing up to three years in jail. The investigation also claims that the livestream of the journalists resulted in the stoppage of 13 buses, 3 trolleybuses and 3 streetcar routes as well as the damage to the city transport agency Minsktrans (around 11,562 rubles).
On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.
14:30 The trial started. Not everyone who would like to is allowed to be present. Many independent journalists are barred from entering the courtroom. There are a lot of people waiting in the lobby. A woman asks whether the hearing is being held in camera, the guards respond: “There are no vacant seats!”
14:40 The lawyer asks the court to request the information about traffic delays on November, 15. The prosecutor objects; the judge partially upholds, there will be no request to the traffic police.
14:45 The defence says that the case file contains some ‘incorrect’ quotes from the stream.
14:50 The defence asks to place the mobile operators’ replies in the case file. According to them, on that day the mobile Internet in Minsk was practically switched off, which may be a proof of the Belsat TV crew’s inability to ‘coordinate protests’ via livestreaming. The judge granted the motion.
15:00 The prosecutor quotes Katsyaryna Andreyeva’s words; they are supposed to prove her guilt. However, all the quotes are nothing but factual findings. The only сall that Katsyaryna addressed viewers was ‘be careful’. The defence provides an alternative transcript of Katsyaryna’s quotes.
15:05 Katsyaryna’s defenсe lawyer Syarhei Zikratski asks the court to show the full video, explaining that only in this case the details of the broadcast will become clear. However, the judge says only the fragments appearing in the protocol will be shown in view of ‘procedural economy’.
15:10 In the livestream, Katsyaryna Andreyeva just describes what is going on in the Square of Change.
“Look at these brave guys who ran away at first, but then came back to the roadway. And now they are standing in front of GUBOPiK troops.” The prosecutor considers this quote to be a proof of Katsyaryna’s coordinating protest and ‘calling for actions’.
15:40 The people in court watch a man-on-the-street interview filmed by the defendants in the Square of Change as part of the stream. According to the prosecution, it is also a proof of the journalists’ guilt. In total, there are more than 10 fragments of the stream.
15:55 The viewing is over, the defence stresses that some quotes added to the protocol have not appeared in the video shown.
16:05 The prosecutor questions Katsyaryna:
– You said that one was shining their torch, a drone was flying. Why were you afraid of them?
– Maybe because my colleagues happened to be beaten and shot at, some had their bones broken. Wouldn’t you have been afraid if you were me?
– As a journalist, did you have to voice what was happening or did you voice what other sources were reporting?
– I am competent enough to understand what they were reporting.
– Was it your responsibility to voice what other sources said?
– In journalism, one is expected to refer to sources of information <…> My goal was to make a report.
– How could drivers help protect people in the area from special vehicles?
– How should I know? I referred to major news channels on Telegram.
– Why was it necessary to draw back, fall down onto the floor?
– Probably because my colleagues were kicked in the stomach during detentions, they got fractures, because my colleague photographer was injured [with a rubber bullet]. And all these things are the work of security officers <…> Wouldn’t you have been scared?
“I was just performing my professional duties,” Katsyaryna sums up.
16:40 The prosecutor keeps reading out transcripts of the calls the police got from the local residents on November 15: there are complaints about protesters’ marching, cars’ beeping, etc. Someone reported the facts of strangers’ entering their blocks of flats.
17:40 Diplomatic representatives of EU member countries leave. Various certificates and references are read out.
17:50 Witness Raman Pranovich, who is in charge of traffic routing at the city transport agency Minsktrans, is called in. He confirms that the losses were recompensed.
“Minsktrans does not have any claims, as all the losses have been replenished in full,” Pranovich said.
17:55 Today’s hearing is over. The trial is to continue on February 17 at 10:00 (local time).