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  • BAJ Protest against the Practice of Fining Journalists for Work

    Belarusian Association of Journalists strongly protests against the increasing administrative prosecution of freelance journalists whose materials are published in foreign mass media.

    In 2015, 22 fines have already been imposed on jour­nal­ists for this “vio­la­tion”, mean­while only in June there were 8 of them. In 2014 there were 10 such cas­es.

    In the first week of July Ales Liauchuk was fined for 50 basic amounts, and he faces two more ana­log­i­cal admin­is­tra­tive cas­es on June 9 and 10.

    The total sum of the fines imposed on jour­nal­ists in 2015 amount­ed to 117 mil­lion rubles.

    In con­tra­dic­tion with the Law on Mass Media, the police and courts extend the oblig­a­tion to get accred­i­ta­tion from the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs on free­lance jour­nal­ists, who are not staff jour­nal­ists of for­eign mass media. Then, the author­i­ties unrea­son­ably qual­i­fy activ­i­ties with­out such accred­i­ta­tion as a vio­la­tion of the pro­ce­dures of pro­duc­tion and pub­li­ca­tion of mass media prod­ucts (accord­ing to part 2 of art. 22.9 of the Code on Admin­is­tra­tive Vio­la­tions). Mean­while, mass media prod­ucts are pro­duced by edi­to­r­i­al offices, and infor­ma­tion is dis­trib­uted by mass media, not by jour­nal­ists them­selves. Based on def­i­n­i­tions of the Law on Mas Media, jour­nal­ist is not a sub­ject pro­duc­ing or dis­trib­ut­ing mass media prod­ucts. Accord­ing­ly, he can­not be held liable for vio­lat­ing this arti­cle.

    More­over, hold­ing free­lance jour­nal­ists liable for coop­er­a­tion with for­eign mass media with­out accred­i­ta­tion vio­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Belarus and inter­na­tion­al legal oblig­a­tions of the state. Arti­cle 34 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Belarus ensures citien rights to get, store and dis­sem­i­nate full, true and time­ly infor­ma­tion about activ­i­ties of state bod­ies, pub­lic asso­ci­a­tions, and about polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al life, about the envi­ron­ment. The same is stat­ed by art. 19 of the ICCPR rat­i­fied by Belarus, accord­ing to which  every per­son has the right to search, obtain and dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion of dif­fer­ent kinds and ideas regard­less of state bor­ders ver­bal­ly, in writ­ten form or by print and artis­tic means, or by any oth­er means of per­son­al choice.

    Restric­tion of these rights, accord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion and the ICCPR, is pos­si­ble only for cer­tain rea­sons, i.e. for pro­tec­tion of hon­or, dig­ni­ty, per­son­al and fam­i­ly life of cit­i­zens and for full enjoy­ment of their rights. How­ev­er, in all cas­es against jour­nal­ists under art. 22.9 the rea­son­ing for lia­bil­i­ty was not unlaw­ful­ness of the con­tents of their matri­als, but the very fact that their mate­ri­als were pub­lished in for­eign out­lets.

    We would like to draw atten­tion that in the glob­al world pros­e­cu­tion of jour­nal­ists for pub­li­ca­tion of their mate­ri­als in for­eign mass media vio­lates not only the jour­nal­ists’ con­sti­tu­tion­al and pro­fes­sion­al rights, but also the rights of all cit­i­zens to get and dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion.

    Before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Belarus, increas­ing pres­sure on jour­nal­ists cre­ates a dis­cour­ag­ing envi­ron­ment for the elec­toral cam­paign and casts doubts on free­dom of expres­sion for it in the mass media.

    The Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists calls on the fol­low­ing actors:

    -  Heads of the Min­istry of Home Affairs and the KGB – to con­sid­er law­ful­ness of actions of their employ­ees in the cas­es men­tioned above. Instead of fight­ing crimes and pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al order, dozens of employ­ees of the MHA and the KGB stage a real hunt for jour­nal­ists who do not encroach on anyone’s law­ful rights and inter­ests;

    -  Courts of the Repub­lic of Belarus – while con­sid­er­ing cas­es to be guid­ed by the Con­sti­tu­tion of Belarus and inter­na­tion­al treaties rat­i­fied by Belarus; to dis­al­low broad inter­pre­ta­tion of legal acts of Belarus envis­ag­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty;

    -  The Supreme Court of Belarus – to pay atten­tion to the uncon­di­tion­al obser­vance of hier­ar­chy of legal acts by courts of low­er instance, and on inde­pen­dence of courts while issu­ing deci­sions. In many admin­is­tra­tive cas­es, it was unclear how mate­ri­als of pre­vi­ous cas­es were attached. Appear­ances of such “sam­ples of deci­sions” in court hear­ings can be regard­ed as pres­sure on courts;

    -  The prosecutor’s offices of Belarus – to protest against rul­ings con­tra­dict­ing to legal acts in the admin­is­tra­tive cas­es under art. 22.9, part 2;

    -  The Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court of the Repub­lic of Belarus – to ini­ti­ate pro­ce­dures to elim­i­nate gaps, legal col­li­sions and uncer­tain­ty in the legal acts that reg­u­late obtain­ing and dis­sem­i­na­tion of infor­ma­tion by Belaru­sian cit­i­zens, also regard­less of state bor­ders.

    Adopt­ed by the Board of BAJ

    July 7, 2015

    Fines to Jour­nal­ists for Vio­lat­ing Arti­cle 22.9 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code (Chart) (Updat­ed)

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