The highest court of the country has dismissed the appeal by Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel who demanded to remove ‘inconsistent regulations’ from the Constitution.
Our contributors have been repeatedly tried for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’ (Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code), i.e. for working for Belsat TV without accreditation.
“We filed a complaint about constantly infringing on our constitutional right to collect and distribute information, i.e. fines they impose on us. In addition, Article 22.9 cannot be directed against individuals, but against legal entities and media outlets. However, the Constitutional Court has not found any violation. Therefore, I believe that there is no point in having such a court in our country. They gave us a formal reply instead of opening a case,” Czajczyc says.
The decision is final and not open to any appeal.
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. Since the beginning of 2018, fines of BYN 2,450 have been imposed on the working tandem.
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.
On March 5, the duo will stand trial for contributing to a Belsat news item about a housing issue in Fanipal.
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.