On September 15, trials of journalists cooperating with Belsat are taking place in a number of Belarusian cities.
In Kastrychnitski district court, Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Maksim Kalitouski were tried under Art. 22.9 (violation of media law) and 23.4 (disobedience to police) of the Code of Administrative Offenses. A fine of 1,375 Belarusian rubles was imposed on each for working without accreditation; as for the latter case, the protocols were sent for revision.
Katsyaryna and Maksim were detained on September, 12 during Women’s March in Minsk. Waiting for the trial, they spent three days behind bars.
Maryna Drabysheuskaya was detained at her place on Monday evening and charged with ‘participation in and unauthorised event’ (Art. 23.34). Notably, she was present at the rally as a journalist covering the events she was wearing a PRESS vest and had a special badge. Maryna Drabysheuskaya was sentenced to ten days in jail; her mother who has a disability got sick in court.
The case of another Homiel-based journalist, Yauhen Merkis, was sent for revision until September 17, which means that the Belsat contributor is unlikely to be released before that date. Yauhen was brutally detained on September, 14.
Since August 9, there have been 197 cases of pressure on media workers, the Belarusian Association of Journalists reports; Belsat journalists are facing persecution on a more frequent basis.
Belsat TV, which has been broadcasting for over 12 years, has been denied accreditation for its journalists. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly 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, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If one has accreditation, they are allowed to perform journalistic duties, if not – their activity is outlawed.