On May 25, freelancers Zmitser Krauchuk and Maryia Artsybashava have faced trial for contributing to Belsat TV in Tsentralny district court of Minsk.
In February, the duo filmed the rally for the decriminalisation of soft drugs, for which they have been fined BYN 735 each by judge Ivan Kastsyan today.
Interestingly, the same case was tried in April and the both were given the same fines. However, then the court staff made a mess of the papers, and the freelance journalists managed to appeal the judgment, Artsybashava told Belsat TV. Minsk City Court quashed the decision by judge Alena Shabunya and sent the case for review. Unfortunately, the result turns to be predictable.
A week ago, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again urged the Belarus authorities to end their growing judicial and financial harassment of independent journalists, who received at least 48 fines since the start of 2018.
In early May, Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, expressed his continued disappointment and concern regarding the ongoing practice of imposing penalties on journalists working without accreditation in Belarus.
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.