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  • Mass Media Week in Belarus Info-posting August 17 – September 7, 2015

    At the end of August, six political prisoners were released, including BAJ member Yauhen Vaskovich. Meantime, pressure on independent mass media, including prosecution under art. 22.9, denial of services and interference into work of journalists at task continued in its ordinary manner.

    On August 19, jour­nal­ists Ales Kirke­vich and Ales Dzian­isau were found guilty of vio­lat­ing art. 22.9 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code and fined 25 basic amounts each (4.5 mil­lion rubles). The cas­es ground­ed on video reports about a Lithuan­ian pup­pet exhi­bi­tion in Hrod­na, pub­lished on Bel­sat web­site. The cas­es start­ed yet in July, but the case mate­ri­als were sent back to the police for com­ple­tion. The hear­ing resumed on August 14, with­out the jour­nal­ists’ par­tic­i­pa­tion. The wit­ness­es were sum­moned to court to tes­ti­fy, the artist Ali­ak­san­dr Sil­vanovich and his wife, direc­tor of the exhi­bi­tion hall Iry­na Sil­vanovich. The total sum of fines at that time amount­ed over 146 mil­lion rubles.

    On August 19, in Biarozau­ka (Hrod­na region, Lida dis­trict) the flat of free­lance jour­nal­ist Yury Dzi­ashuk was searched. Police offi­cers looed through his notes, and seized a com­put­er and a print­er. The search­es were held with­in crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion of the fact of a flash mob held in the town on July 25, 2015.

    On August 21, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion report­ed that it had restrict­ed access to two more unnamed web­sites for the rea­son that the resources, as the Min­istry deems, dis­trib­uted infor­ma­tion with signs of extrem­ism and hate speech.

    On August 21, jour­nal­ist Ali­ak­san­dr Burak­ou was made to delete pho­tos of an infor­ma­tion­al stand about the launch of the elec­toral cam­paign, which was locat­ed near the admin­is­tra­tion build­ing in Mahilou. An employ­ee of the secu­ri­ty depart­ment went out and demand­ed to delete the pho­tos, as they were of an admin­is­tra­tive build­ing. The jour­nal­ist argued they were of an infor­ma­tion­al stand. He delet­ed the pho­tos and filed a com­plaint at the book of sug­ges­tions of the admin­is­tra­tion.

    On August 22, Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka released six polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, includ­ing BAJ mem­ber Yauhen Vaskovich. The 24-year old man had worked for Bobruyskiy Couri­er for some time before the impris­on­ment.

    In May 2011, Yauhen Vaskovich and two oth­er fel­lows were sen­tenced to 7 years in prison for attack­ing the KGB build­ing in Babruysk (on the night of Octo­ber 17, 2010). They were found guilty of hooli­gan­ism and caus­ing cost­ly dam­age to prop­er­ty (the dam­age to the out­er façade was esti­mat­ed at 253 000 Br, which was in 2010 about 85$). Yauhen Vaskovich was serv­ing the term in Mahilou prison No4.

    Pavel Syra­malotau plead­ed for par­don and was released in Sep­tem­ber 2012. Yauhen Vaskovich and Art­siom Prakapen­ka refused to appeal for par­don. The impris­on­ment term would have end­ed for them on Jan­u­ary 17, 2018.

    On August 31, the news­pa­per Novy Chas again request­ed for ser­vices of Bel­sayuz­druk, state dis­trib­u­tor of print­ed press. The news­pa­per was left out from the state-run sys­tem of press dis­trib­u­tor before elec­tions in 2006. From that time, the pub­lic and jour­nal­ism com­mu­ni­ty pressed the author­i­ties to elim­i­nate eco­nom­ic dis­crim­i­na­tion, after which sev­er­al major news­pa­pers returned into the dis­tri­b­u­tion net (includ­ing Nasha Niva (8000 copies), and Nar­o­d­naya Volya (26000 copies)). How­ev­er, some out­lets, like Novy Chas are still dis­crim­i­nat­ed. Bel­sayuz­druk refus­es to coop­er­ate with the out­lets and pro­vide them with dis­tri­b­u­tion ser­vices. This time the edi­to­r­i­al office received a reply that the enter­prise does not have a pos­si­bil­i­ty to pro­vide ser­vices, but promis­es to con­sid­er the issue by the end of the year. The region­al news­pa­pers Haze­ta Slonim­skaya and Intex-press (Baranavichy) expe­ri­ence the same trou­ble, although the edi­to­r­i­al offices and read­ers of the out­lets insis­tent­ly appeal to the dis­trib­u­tors.

    On Sep­tem­ber 7 in Homel, free­lance jour­nal­ists Kas­tus Zhuk­ous­ki and Natal­lia Kry­vashei were closed in a dor­mi­to­ry, and the police were called, when they came to make a report about dwelling con­di­tions in the build­ing. The jour­nal­ists came fol­low­ing a com­plaint of a res­i­dent of the build­ing. The admin­is­tra­tor of the build­ing phoned to the com­mu­nal enter­prise Sovi­et were she was rec­om­mend­ed to close the jour­nal­ists down and call the police. Police offi­cers arrived and set the jour­nal­ists free, the lat­ter filed com­plaints against force­ful depri­va­tion of free­dom and inter­fer­ence into jour­nal­ists’ activ­i­ties.

     On Sep­tem­ber 7, non-staff cor­re­spon­dent of Nar­o­d­naya Volya Kat­siary­na Andreye­va was detained when she came to cov­er a pick­et of inter­est hold­ers who protest­ed against alleged fraud near the Palace of Inde­pen­dence. The jour­nal­ist was detained togeth­er with the pick­eters, although she had a con­fir­ma­tion of the edi­to­r­i­al task. She was kept for an hour and a half, and then released with­out any pro­to­cols.

    On Sep­tem­ber 7, jour­nal­ist and mil­i­tary affairs ana­lyst Ali­ak­san­dr Alesin report­ed that he was still in the sta­tus of a sus­pect in the crim­i­nal case on coop­er­a­tion with for­eign spe­cial ser­vices. He said there were hard­ly any inves­tiga­tive oper­a­tions held. How­ev­er, he still stays under recog­ni­zance, through which he missed many impor­tant inter­na­tion­al meet­ings. He told about a draft law being pre­pared which would estab­lish that coop­er­a­tion with for­eign spe­cial forces would not be con­sid­ered as a crime if it did not inflict harm to the state. “If the amend­ments are adopt­ed, the inves­ti­ga­tors said the case would be closed,” said Ali­ak­san­dr Alesin.

    We remind that he was detained on Novem­ber 25, and set free under recog­ni­zance on Decem­ber 10, 2014. He was first accused of state trea­son, but then the charges were changed for coop­er­a­tion with for­eign spe­cial forces.

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