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  • Mass Media Week in Belarus Info-posting April 7 – 19, 2015

    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.

    April 8, Homel police­men searched the socio-polit­i­cal cen­ter in Paleskaya Street, 52 and the apart­ment of the lawyer, BAJ mem­ber Leanid Sudalen­ka (he was in Swe­den at the moment). The police con­fis­cat­ed the sys­tem unit of his com­put­er and a lap­top. The offi­cial rea­son the search­es was a com­plaint of a cit­i­zen who had received porn video greet­ing on the occa­sion of March 8sent from Sudalenka’s email, and from the IP-address of the socio-polit­i­cal cen­ter. The search­es were con­duct­ed as a pre­lim­i­nary inquiry under art. 343 part 2 of the Crim­i­nal Code.

    On April 15 Leanid Sudalen­ka gave expla­na­tions at the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee. He said he had not used the email sudalenko@mail.ru for 15 years. At the end of 2014 the email was hacked, he lost con­trol over it, he held com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the tech­ni­cal ser­vice of Mail.ru about this prob­lem, which he can prove. On the day the email was sent, he did not con­trol the email box.

    On April 9, pub­lish­er and book-sell­er Ihar Lohv­in­au had 20 books seized on the Belaru­sian-Lithuan­ian bor­der point Kamen­ny Loh. The book was “Anthro­pol­o­gy. Ethics. Pol­i­tics”, a com­pi­la­tion of phi­los­o­phy essays of Tat­siana Shchyttso­va, teacher of the Euro­pean Human­i­ties Uni­ver­si­ty. Lohv­in­au had no rela­tions to pub­li­ca­tion of the book – he was only asked to bring them to Min­sk for a pre­sen­ta­tion.

    As became known on April 9, BAJ mem­ber, free­lancer Larysa Schyrako­va was fined by Retchyt­sa dis­trict court. The case was heard at the end of March with­out the jour­nal­ist — she was abroad, and noti­fied the court with a spe­cial paper that she would not be able to attend the hear­ing.

    Accord­ing to the court rul­ing, on Feb­ru­ary 6 at a mar­ket in Retchyt­sa, Larysa Shchyrako­va «with­out being a jour­nal­ist of mass media, with­out hav­ing the right, inter­viewed cit­i­zens, pre­pared a video report titled «Admin­is­tra­tion of the mar­ket robs sell­ers» which she pub­lished on the same day on the web­site of the TV chan­nel Bel­sat, and by doing so per­formed ille­gal pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mass media prod­ucts» (art. 22.9 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code). A sim­i­lar «vio­la­tion», as the rul­ing says, Larysa Shcyrako­va per­formed on Feb­ru­ary 12, by mak­ing and pub­lish­ing a report on Bel­sat titled «Inhu­man con­di­tions at Retchyt­sa mar­ket». This is already the third fine imposed on Larysa since the start of the year; the total sum of the fines makes 8 mil­lion rubles.

    As report­ed on April 9, the res­i­dent of Brest sus­pect­ed of defam­ing the pres­i­dent of Belarus, Mikhail Luka­she­vich was sent for psy­chi­atric exam­i­na­tion. The case was opened on Decem­ber 29 by the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee, accord­ing to art. 367, part 1 of the Crim­i­nal Code. The grounds for the case were polit­i­cal slo­gans the man wrote on his garage and a fence around it in Brest, Yes­enin Street. The slo­gans had been there for over 10 years.

    On April 10 pho­tog­ra­ph­er Anton Matol­ka received a reply to his com­plaint to the Nation­al State TV and Radio Com­pa­ny. On March 18 the pho­tog­ra­ph­er saw his pic­tures of the Polar shin­ing in Belarus which were demon­strat­ed by Belarus‑1 chan­nel with­out nam­ing the author and with­out ask­ing his per­mit. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er demand­ed pub­lic excus­es and a com­pen­sa­tion of 10 mil­lion rubles for the moral dam­age and 5 mil­lion 400 thou­sand as a com­pen­sa­tion for vio­la­tion of copy­right. The chair­per­son of the com­pa­ny Henadz Davy­dz­ka replied that the pho­to was in pub­lic access online and the author had not banned using them, so the com­plaint was unground­ed. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er spoke of his inten­tion to sue the com­pa­ny in court.

    On April 11, BAJ mem­ber from Brest Ina Khomich filed a com­plaint to the Brest region­al court against the fine imposed on her for “ille­gal pro­duc­tion of mass media prod­ucts”. Besides, she asked the court to request the Supreme Court and the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court to eval­u­ate the legial­stion reg­u­lat­ing work of for­eign jour­nal­ists in Belarus and the very notion of “accred­i­ta­tion”. The fine that she dis­putes was imposed on her for an arti­cle about the launch of the muse­um of bread in a vil­lage of Motal, Ivana­va dis­trict, which she had made for Brest­skiy Couri­er news­pa­per and the Belaru­sian Radio Racy­ja.

    On April 13, free­lance jour­nal­ist Vik­tar Parfio­nen­ka received a reply from Min­sk City Court con­cern­ing his super­vi­so­ry com­plaint. We remind that the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs had denied to him accred­i­ta­tion as a jour­nal­ist of the Radio Racy­ja for 7 years. The jour­nal­ist asked the Lenin dis­trict court of Min­sk to ini­ti­ate civ­il lit­i­ga­tion against the Min­istry, but on Decem­ber 19, 2014 the court dis­missed his com­plaint. This deci­sion of the low­er instance court was upheld by the pan­el of judges of the Min­sk City Court, and this time, by the chair­per­son of the Min­sk City Court P. Karshunovich.

    On April 15, the edi­to­r­i­al office of the online news por­tal Media-Polesye report­ed that anony­mous per­sons had cre­at­ed a fake copy of their web­site. The fake copy had only one sym­bol dif­fer­ent in their domain name and post­ed dai­ly news from the orig­i­nal news web­site. How­ev­er, the fake web­site also had a sec­tion Don­bass and post­ed news from the self-pro­claimed, now at war, Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic.

    On April 16, the Slonim dis­trict court dis­missed the com­plaint of a bus dri­ver against a jour­nal­ist of Haze­ta Slonim­skaya. The bus dri­ver asked to defend the hon­or, dig­ni­ty and busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion harmed, in his view, by arti­cle Indif­fer­ence Fright­ens dat­ed Feb­ru­ary 4, 2015 authored by Tat­siana Plakhet­ka. The jour­nal­ist described a sit­u­a­tion that occurred to her 7‑year old daugh­ter; the bus dri­ver did not stop at a bus stop and the girl, with­out par­ents, could not get off at the right stop. Lat­er the moth­er asked for con­tact of the bus dri­ver, but he refused to com­mu­ni­cate.

    On April 17, the polit­i­cal pris­on­er, jour­nal­ist of Bobruyskij Couri­er and BAJ mem­ber Yauhen Vaskovich had a short-term meet­ing with his rel­a­tives. In Sep­tem­ber, there is a chance for amnesty if he has no vio­la­tions. Mean­time, recent­ly the spe­cial com­mis­sion refused amnesty to his friend, Art­siom Prakapen­ka who had plead­ed for par­don two months before. We remind, in May, 2011 Yauhen Vaskovich, Art­siom Prakapen­ka and Pavel Syra­malotau were sen­tenced for 7 years in jail for set­ting fire to the Babruysk build­ing of the KGB. The minor dam­age, spoilt out­er dec­o­ra­tion, amount­ed to 253 thou­sand rubles, and was com­pen­sat­ed. How­ev­er, they were sen­tenced under the arti­cle for caus­ing large-scale dam­age.

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