Homiel district court imposed a fine of 22 basic units (Br 4.6 mln, or $240) on freelance journalist Larysa Shchyrakova.
She was found guilty of violating Art. 22.9 (illegal production and distribution of media products), but in fact, the reporter was punished for contributing to foreign mass media without having any accreditation.
The case was judged by Alyaksandr Lisouski.
“In my final statement, I said that one has the right to prosecute journalists, of course, but only if they give false information and insult someone’s honor. But the regime’s persecuting journalists for what their plying journalism, for collecting and distributing unbiased information is low, immoral and despicable,” Shchyrakova told Belsat TV.
In December, police captain Titou drew up a protocol on Larysa Shchyrakova’s work. According to the document, the journalist interviewed the residents of agro-town of Urytskaye (Homiel region) about the threat of eviction of orphan Viktar Yanchanka, which is nothing but ‘illegal media production’. A news item based on the material collected by Shchyrakova was televised by Belsat TV on December 24, 2015.
The news item was dedicated to the complicated situation that the former pupil of the local educational orphanage is facing. The reporter received the protocols in the mail on January, 4.
It was the sixth police report against the independent journalist for her cooperation with a foreign media outlet without the press accreditation. All in all, Belarusian independent media workers were fined 28 times on the same charges (article 22.9 of Belarus Code on Administrative Offenses) in 2015.
Kastus Zhukouski, a freelance journalist and Belsat TV contributor, has recently encountered the same problem with the local police.
Belsat TV which has been broadcasting for eight years, has been denied accreditation for its journalists during these very eight years. Its recent request was turned down in March, 2015. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat TV because the journalists working for it … break the law. The document lists the names of nine persons who received warnings of the Belarusian prosecutor’s office over this case.
So 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.