Belsatters (from L to R): Ales Barazenka, Hanna Azemsha, Volha Czajczyc, Andrus Kozel
Dzyarzhynsk district court has found Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel guilty of violation of mass media law (Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code) and imposed a fine of BYN 857.5 on each.
It is the second penalty that the journalists have got in 2018. In February, judge Uladzimir Fedarovich punished them with a fine of 35 basic units each.
On March 5, the duo stood trial for contributing to a Belsat news item about a housing issue in Fanipal. A group of local residents had to wait for being given the keys to their finished apartments for nearly six months.
“After the story was aired, officials began to solve the problem. That is exacly the thing that helps us to carry on. We are tried for our news stories, we are tried for our making officials do something for citizens. But the situation in the country, at least at the local level, is changing,” Volha Czajczyc believes.
(UPD) Just a few hours later, the reporters learned that another protocol had been made upon them under notorious article 22.9. The authorities must have disliked Czajczyc’ and Kozel’ covering the protest of persons with sight disability in Minsk:
Moreover, on March 7, Andrus Kozel will have to appear before court for allegedly disobeying to the police (Art. 23.4). As reported earlier, Andrus Kozel was severely beaten by police while observing the election process at one of Minsk polling stations. The policemen broke the glass in the door to the polling station with Andrus’ head when they were detaining him.
In 2017, freelance journalists Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel paid 8,556 Belarusian rubles to the state budget. The crew was repeatedly fined for contribution to Belsat TV.
According to Reporters Without Borders, it is our journalists who are harassed by Belarusian government agencies most. In 2017, Belsat TV journalists paid over $ 14,000 of fines. 94% of fines for the so-called illegal production of media products fell on Belsat TV contributors, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported.
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.