Hrodna: Editor-in-chief heavily fined over mentioning ‘extremist’ TG channel on news website editor-in-chief Alyaksei Shota in court. Photo: Belsat

On March 19, Leninski district court of Hrodna considered the case of media worker Alyaksei Shota and passed a verdict on him.

Shota, editor-in-chief of local media outlet, was found guilty of violating Article 17.11 of the old version of the Code of Administrative Offences (‘dissemination or preservation of extremist information’).

Judge Natallya Kozel imposed two fines on him; they total to 12,325 Belarusian rubles (appr. $4,700).

The case was initiated on the back of posting three articles on the news website in April and June. According to the police’s version, they contained the logo of a certain ‘extremist’ TG channel or links to it. One of them, for example, reported that reputed Belarusian blogger Stsyapan Putsila‘s Telegram was recognised as extremist in Belarus, which the Belarusian aythorities consider as ‘the spread of extremist information’.

When some of the materials were published, the above mentioned Telegram channel was not regarded as extremist in the republic, Alyaksei Shota stressed when giving testimony in court. He intends to appeal against the court ruling.

Stsyapan Putsila and his associate Raman Pratasevich, who blogged about the developments in Belarus on a number of social media profiles and channels which became popular with protesters, were included in the ‘List of organisations and individuals involved in terrorist activities’ by the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB). The Belarusian authorities believe the young men were steering and controlling the protests in Belarus via web resources. In February, the Belarusian Investigative Committee sent documents for the extradition of Stsyapan Putsila and Raman Pratasevich to Poland through the Prosecutor General.

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