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  • ‘Barysauskiya Naviny’ Editor convicted for announcing demonstration

    A court in Barysau (90 km northeast of Minsk) sentenced Anatol Bukas, the editor of the Barysauskiya Naviny local newspaper, to pay a fine of 345 roubles (145 euros) on 1 December for mentioning the unauthorized demonstration.

    The court ruled that a 4 Octo­ber arti­cle in Borisovskie Novosti men­tion­ing an oppo­si­tion demon­stra­tion in Min­sk on 21 Octo­ber had vio­lat­ed the law on mass gath­er­ings, which bans giv­ing the date and time of demon­stra­tions if they are not autho­rized. Bukas, who plead­ed not guilty, has said he will appeal.

    As this law had nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly been applied to a media out­let, Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists regard the case as a dan­ger­ous prece­dent.

    The start of 2017 in Belarus saw large street protests against a new tax on “social par­a­sitism” applic­a­ble to any­one work­ing for less than six months a year. The author­i­ties cracked down hard on the demon­stra­tions and, in March alone, 94 jour­nal­ists were arrest­ed and six were beat­en by police while cov­er­ing the protests.

    Imple­men­ta­tion of the tax has been sus­pend­ed for the time being but the idea has not been aban­doned and it con­tin­ues to be the sub­ject of occa­sion­al protests.

    Reporters With­out Bor­ders (RSF) called on the Belaru­sian jus­tice sys­tem to quash the editor’s unprece­dent­ed con­vic­tion for refer­ring to a future demon­stra­tion that did not have the government’s per­mis­sion.

    “This dan­ger­ous prece­dent calls into ques­tion the right of jour­nal­ists to cov­er demon­stra­tions,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s East­ern Europe and Cen­tral Asia desk.

    Sev­er­al UN res­o­lu­tions in recent years have urged gov­ern­ments to lift undue restric­tions on the cov­er­age of peace­ful protests. We call on the Belaru­sian author­i­ties to over­turn Ana­tol Bukas’s con­vic­tion on appeal and to bring the law on mass gath­er­ings into com­pli­ance with inter­na­tion­al law.”

    Belarus is ranked 153rd out of 180 coun­tries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Free­dom Index.

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