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  • Ban to Photo Administrative Buildings Allegedly Aimed at Enhancing Safety

    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.

    On Feb­ru­ary 26, the pho­to reporter of Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da was detained while tak­ing pic­tures of the Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in Min­sk. On March 2, the jour­nal­ist from Hly­bokaye Zmitser Lupach was denied entry to the local exec­u­tive com­mit­tee because he had a pro­fes­sion­al pho­to cam­era in his bag. On March 7, tourists were detained in Iwye, Hrod­na region; the police delet­ed their pho­tos of the prosecutor’s office, fire­fight­ers’ sta­tion, mar­riage reg­is­tra­tion hall and of the pub­lic library.

    In sep­a­rate inci­dents, offi­cers referred to an inter­nal rul­ing issued by the Deputy Min­is­ter of Home Affairs enu­mer­at­ing pub­lic places that can be pho­tographed only with a spe­cial per­mit. The list includes rail­way sta­tions, air­planes, etc. The rul­ing was clas­si­fied as an inter­nal doc­u­ment and was not sup­posed to be pub­lished; how­ev­er, it seems to have been leaked to the web.

    Accord­ing to the scan of the doc­u­ment, on Feb­ru­ary 23 a Russ­ian cit­i­zen was detained near Loyew Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. His per­son­al belong­ings were inspect­ed, and the infor­ma­tion car­ri­ers had 15 pho­tos of build­ings of state bod­ies, of the rail­ways sta­tion in Homel, and of an air­plane out­side and inside.

    So, “to avoid such ana­log­i­cal provoca­tive actions and to imple­ment the rul­ing of the Min­istry of Home Affairs on ensur­ing pub­lic safe­ty”, employ­ees of police depart­ments, police offi­cers on duty etc. are ordered to reveal, detain and bring to police depart­ments those per­sons who took pho­tos and video of build­ings of state bod­ies and of crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant objects; employ­ees should be warn to be more vig­i­lant on duty, to con­duct search­es, ques­tion­ing, inspec­tion of record­ing devices of those detained; to take pho­tos, fin­ger­prints of the detainees.

    “One can under­stand the inten­tions behind this rul­ing, but in fact it con­tains a num­ber of points vio­lat­ing cit­i­zens’ rights and incom­pli­ant with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion,” says Andrei Bas­tunets, deputy chair of BAJ.

    “First, deten­tion of cit­i­zens (dis­re­gard­ing whether they are tak­ing pho­tos or not) is to be car­ried out accord­ing to the Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offences. The Code states that “deten­tion” is a short-term free­dom restric­tion of a per­son involved in an admin­is­tra­tive process under accu­sa­tion of com­mit­ting an admin­is­tra­tive offence. It is total­ly unclear what are the grounds to detain cit­i­zens who take pho­tos of build­ings. Besides, the list of build­ings is not lim­it­ed. So, it is an arbi­trary appli­ca­tion of law, some­thing like a prank.”

    The demand to car­ry out search­es, ques­tion­ing, fin­ger­print­ing of the detained pho­tog­ra­phers is also incom­pli­ant with the Admin­is­tra­tive Code, because the per­son is not in the sta­tus of a detainee, but turned out to be there only for per­son­al­i­ty iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (allowed for up to three hours – note). As for tak­ing fin­ger­prints, it is allowed only when the admin­is­tra­tive offence imput­ed to the per­son envis­ages an arrest as a pun­ish­ment.

    The lawyer of BAJ says the asso­ci­a­tion keeps find­ing out how much the rul­ing com­plies with the leg­is­la­tion. On March 4 BAJ filed a request to pub­lish the text of the rul­ing, if it real­ly exists.

    “Since the rul­ing direct­ly touch cit­i­zens’ rights, it should be pub­lished in the form of a nor­ma­tive act which is to be pub­lished (because only pub­lished acts come into legal force). It should under­go exam­i­na­tion regard­ing its com­pli­ance with nor­ma­tive acts of a high­er lev­el,” says Andrei Bas­tunets.

    Mean­time, on March 6 the Min­istry of Home Affairs gave an offi­cial com­ment claim­ing inter­nal rul­ings do not nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be pub­lished. “Such demands are aimed at ensur­ing secu­ri­ty in the coun­try and at increas­ing vig­i­lance of employ­ees of law enforce­ment agen­cies, in respect of pre­ven­tion of poten­tial threats: from provo­ca­tions to ter­ror­ist acts,” says the state­ment.

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