Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, expressed his continued disappointment and concern regarding the ongoing practice of imposing penalties on journalists working without accreditation in Belarus.
“This detrimental practice effectively bans journalists from reporting on issues of public interest and has a crippling effect on pluralism and freedom of the media in Belarus. Yesterday’s court decisions against six freelance journalists again underscore the urgent need to address the issue,” Désir said.
On May7, a Minsk court fined Belsat TV contributors Lyubou Lunyova, Syarhei Krauchuk, Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Iryna Arakhouskaya, Maryia Artsybashava and Ales Barazenka for violation of the law on media, i.e. for work without accreditation, the OSCE representative recalled. The fines totalled to BYN 6,000 (nearly $3,000)
Désir urged the Belarusian authorities to urgently amend the mass media law and grant all journalists an unimpeded right to seek and disseminate information, and in this regard offered the legal assistance and expertise of the organisation.
“With journalists continually facing fines for doing their work, Belarus has set a troubling trend, causing press freedom to be degraded,” Désir said.
According to the OSCE Media Freedom office, accreditation should facilitate the work of the press, not be used as a tool of administrative pressure resulting in punitive measures towards media actors that restrict their freedom of information and impose self-censorship.
During the current year, nearly 40 fines have been imposed on Belsat TV journalists and contributors. They will have to pay over 30,000 Belarusian rubles to the state budget.