Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again urges the Belarus authorities to end their growing judicial and financial harassment of independent journalists, who have received at least 48 fines since the start of 2018.
It is stated that most fines have been imposed on journalists working for Belsat TV, an ‘exile TV station based in neighbouring Poland’.
“In the week ending 14 May alone, no fewer than ten fines were imposed on Belsat TV journalists for ‘working for a foreign media without accreditation’ . The imposition of fines has become common in recent years and keeps on growing. The ten fines imposed in 2016 rose to 69 in 2017 and have already reached 48 in the first four and a half months of 2018 – 46 of which went to Belsat TV reporters,” RSF stresses.
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.
“The fines hurt in a country where the average monthly pay is less than 400 euros. After being fined ten times last year, Belsat TV reporter Kastus Zhukouski has already received eight fines totalling some 2,300 euros in 2018. His colleague, Volha Czajczyc, was fined seven times last year and has so far received five fines amounting to 1,700 euros this year. The police specifically target Belsat TV reporters, according to Belsat TV correspondent Pavel Mazheyka, who was briefly arrested in March while filming an interview at a festival in Minsk and was fined 857 roubles (350 euros) on 14 May,” the watchdog notes.
According to the organisation, the harassment of government critics intensified after a wave of anti-government protests in the spring of 2017 that were covered by Belsat TV and other independent media outlets. Belarus is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
“The exponential rise in the number of fines imposed since the start of the year is indicative of a targeted campaign to silence Belsat TV’s reporters,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
Belsat.eu, following rsf.org