First time in ten years, the director of Belsat Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy was allowed entry to Belarus.
Within the reporting period, one more journalist was fined for cooperation with foreign mass media. Several online provocation occurred, involving an independent news outlet and a human rights defender. BAJ member, political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich had a short-term meeting with his relatives.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of Speech Dunja Mijatović raised the issue of numerous fines for “illegal production and distribution of mass media products”, in fact, for that journalists contribute to foreign mass media without accreditation in Belarus. “The authorities have to stop imposing restrictive measures on freelance journalists, hindering them to do their job in a free and safe manner,” Mijatović said on April 3. “A constructive solution to this issue should be reached. My Office stands ready to assist the authorities in any way necessary in order to reverse this destructive trend, as well as facilitate a dialogue and joint activities of government institutions and media organizations on the topic.”
On March 26, reports appeared that some Belarusian providers blocked access to Charter’97, Belaruspartisan, Viasna.
BAJ received an official reply to its request filed to the ministry of Home Affairs; journalists asked to publicize the internal ruling that banned taking pictures of administrative buildings. The deputy head of the chief department on crime prevention and maintaining public order I.Kubrakou answered that “lately, there have been facts in the country when citizens, including foreign ones, took photos of administrative buildings with the purpose of further discrediting of state bodies.” So, measures were taken to prevent potential threats – “from provocations to terrorist acts”. The official representative claims that law enforcement agencies have the right to find out for what purpose such pictures are taken. However, they are not obliged to publicize an internal document. The lawyer of BAJ Andrei Bastunets said BAJ would file a claim against the “internal document”.
Most discussed issues of the period were written warnings to several independent mass media for minor faults and an internal document of the Ministry of Home Affairs which prevented people from taking pictures of administrative buildings.
Several recent incidents with photo reporters alarmed the society: who ordered to check identities of people that take pictures of administrative buildings? A copy of the internal ruling appeared on the internet, reports Euroradio.
Law enforcement agencies keep following work of independent journalists contributing to foreign mass media. Besides, a new trend appeared: the Ministry of Information started issuing warnings to independent regional newspapers for minor insufficiencies in publishing data. Editors consider it to be a renewed approach aimed to place newspapers in vulnerable position before the forthcoming presidential elections.