$3,000 in just one day: Heavy fines to Belsatters

One Monday, two judges, eight penalties on Belsatters, fines in the amount of 6,000 Belarusian rubles. During the current year, nearly 40 fines have been imposed on Belsat TV journalists and contributors. They will have to pay over 30,000 Belarusian rubles to the state budget.

Journalist Lyubou Lunyova and cameraman Syarhei Krauchuk got fines (BYN 857.5 each) for filming the opening of the memorial tablet to the founders of the Belarusian People’s Republic in Minsk. It was not uncommon that a policeman gave evidence against the duo.

“The witness, a police officer from Tsentralny police department, did not even know what event was being referred to,” Lunyova said.

The sentence was delivered by notorious judge Viktoryia Shabunya.

She also tried another case of Belsat TV contributors on May, 7. Cameraman Syarhei Krauchuk got one more fine within one day (another BYN 857,5); journalist Maryia Artsybashava will have to pay BYN 735. The crew filmed the Freedom Day rally and concert on March, 25.

“Another case, another hearing for our working as freelancers. For unknown reason the court failed to take into account that the law provides us with the right to collect information. It is the Constitution that secures the right,” Artsybashava said.

“It seems that today is Belsat TV day in Tsentralny district court. Two Belsatters are being tried on each floor of the building. Indeed, we have already beaten the path to this door. It is the Belsat TV contributors who are under strong pressure. There are many foreign media outlets in Belarus, but only Belsatters are summoned to courts,” photographer Iryna Arakhouskaya said.

Iryna Arakhouskaya and journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva were also tried for violation the law on media, i.e. working without accreditation. The case is being heard by judge Ivan Kastsyan in Tsentralny district court of Minsk.

The reason for putting the duo to justice was a man-on the-street interview near the Russian Embassy in Minsk on the presidential elections day. Fine of BYN 857.5 was imposed on Andreyeva; BYN 490 – on Arakhouskaya. The witness was the same policeman Dzmitry Shantyr. Andreyeva moved for summoning representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Information to appear as witnesses in court: she wanted officials to explain why they had repeatedly denied accreditation to Belsat TV. The judge turned down the motion saying that the issue was ‘more global’.

Instead, the judge decided to punish Andreyeva the second time during the day. She and cameraman Ales Barazenka were fined for livestreaming the rally on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the BNR.

“The materials [of the case] I have familiarised with are very formalistic. It is evident that one and the same police officer of Tsentralny district department arrives at the scene, takes photos of people working, then visits Belsat website, draws uo a protocol and makes a report himself. On the one hand, such practice saves human resources, on the other hand, there is an obvious lack of objectivity of the process,” human rights activist Nasta Loyka said.


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