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  • Mass Media Week in Belarus Info-posting March 16 – 22, 2015

    BAJ received an official reply to its request filed to the ministry of Home Affairs; journalists asked to publicize the internal ruling that banned taking pictures of administrative buildings. The deputy head of the chief department on crime prevention and maintaining public order I.Kubrakou answered that “lately, there have been facts in the country when citizens, including foreign ones, took photos of administrative buildings with the purpose of further discrediting of state bodies.” So, measures were taken to prevent potential threats – “from provocations to terrorist acts”. The official representative claims that law enforcement agencies have the right to find out for what purpose such pictures are taken. However, they are not obliged to publicize an internal document.

    The lawyer of BAJ Andrei Bastunets said BAJ would file a claim against the “internal document”.

    March 16, it became known that at the bor­der cross­ing «Kamen­ny Loh» Belaru­sian cus­toms offi­cers seized 47 copies of the report Human Rights Sit­u­a­tion in Belarus in 2014, in Eng­lish and Belaru­sian, pre­pared by the Human Rights Cen­tre Vias­na on the basis of month­ly reviews of human rights vio­la­tions.

    The reviews were brought from Lithua­nia by Smarhon human rights activist Aleh Dzer­ha­chou in his car, reports Spring96. 47 books will most prob­a­bly be sent for exam­i­na­tion, which must deter­mine whether it is per­mit­ted to import these books in Belarus.

    Also on March 14, five copies of a book were seized on the Belaru­sian-Pol­ish bor­der point from a his­to­ry sci­en­tist Pali­na Sharen­da-Pana­siuk. The book His­toric City Ensem­bles in Times of Changes, a col­lec­tion of mate­ri­als of a sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence in Poland in 2014, was sent for exam­i­na­tion by spe­cial ser­vices. The cus­toms offi­cers did not go into details about how long the exam­i­na­tion would last.

    March 16, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion replied to BAJ’s request that it had issued writ­ten warn­ings to sev­er­al peri­od­i­cals, includ­ing the state-run mag­a­zine Vozhyk and the Baranavichy news­pa­per Nash Kraj. We remind that pre­vi­ous­ly, in Feb­ru­ary, the Min­istry warned sev­er­al inde­pen­dent out­lets because they used abbre­vi­a­tion RB in their pub­li­ca­tion data instead of the full name the Repub­lic of Belarus. Also on March 20, the warn­ing on the same grounds (dat­ed Feb­ru­ary 25) reached the inde­pen­dent news­pa­per Novy Chas.

    March 16, the jour­nal­ist from Homel Mikalay Bianko informed that he had filed a com­plaint to the UN HRC against vio­la­tion of his rights to gath­er, store and dis­sem­i­nate

    infor­ma­tion. Before that, he had tried to dis­pute the offi­cial warn­ing issued to him by the region­al prosecutor’s office. On March 5, 2014 he and his col­league Yuliya Sivets were warned against work for for­eign mass media with­out accred­i­ta­tion. The warn­ing was giv­en for mate­ri­als on the web­site of the Radio Racy­ja.

    March 17, jour­nal­ist Ales Kirke­vich was sum­moned to the Lenin dis­trict police depart­ment of Hrod­na. The police con­duct­ed an inquiry under art. 22.9 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code (unlaw­ful pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mass media prod­ucts). The inquiry was ini­ti­at­ed by the KGB. On March 18, for the same rea­sons, jour­nal­ist Ales Dzian­isau was ques­tioned, too. The grounds for the check-up was a video report on Bel­sat about Slut­sk belts in Hrod­na muse­um. The mate­ri­als of the case include screen­shots of the web­site with the report. Also, it fol­lows that the muse­um employ­ee Hali­na Khimko was also sum­moned to the police and for a talk with the KGB, she was asked to iden­ti­fy the jour­nal­ists in pho­tos.

    March 17, a jour­nal­ist from Hrod­na Andrei Mialesh­ka was invit­ed by phone to the local police for talk; he refused to turn up with­out an offi­cial sum­mons.

    March 17, the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion report­ed that on March 13 it had restrict­ed access to five more infor­ma­tion­al resources, under the anti-drugs traf­fick­ing Decree No 6 (dat­ed Decem­ber 28, 2014). We remind that it had already blocked two web­sites “that used vul­gar and tabooed vocab­u­lary and were able to dam­age the nation­al inter­est of the Repub­lic of Belarus”. The right to restrict access to web­sites has been grant­ed to the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion since Jan­u­ary 1, 2015 by the amend­ments to the Law on Mass Media.

    March 17, pub­lish­er Ihar Lohv­in­au said that the Eco­nom­ic Court of Min­sk sup­port­ed the plea to pay the con­fis­ca­tion by instal­ments with­in two months. We remind that on Jan­u­ary 9, 2015 the Eco­nom­ic Court ruled to seize the “ille­gal prof­it” of the book­store in the amount of 961 mil­lion rubles and imposed a fine of 30 basic amounts (5 mln 400 rubles). The “ille­gal entrepreneur’s activ­i­ties” were qual­i­fied as such because the book­store did not get reg­is­tra­tion as a dis­trib­u­tor of print prod­ucts, although it had applied for reg­is­tra­tion to the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion more than six times.

    March 17, peo­ple in plain­clothes detained the cor­re­spon­dent of the Radio Svabo­da Hali­na Abakunchyk. She was inter­view­ing retail sell­ers at the shop­ping cen­ter where peo­ple were expect­ing Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka to appear for a talk with the sell­ers. The pre­text for the deten­tion was that the cor­re­spon­dent had not been accred­it­ed for the meet­ing. In her turn, she said she was not going to attend the meet­ing, but only gath­ered people’s opin­ions about their busi­ness issues. The cor­re­spon­dent was tak­en to a police car, her ID was checked, then a police­man saw her off to a pub­lic taxi bus and made sure that she leave the venue.

    March 18, free­lance jour­nal­ist Ales Liauchuk was sum­moned to the Mask­ous­ki dis­trict police depart­ment of Brest. He was ques­tioned under art. 22.9 (unlaw­ful pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mass media prod­ucts), blamed for being author of the report on Bel­sat TV under ini­tials AL. His author­ship, accord­ing to the inspec­tor, was con­firmed by the per­son he had inter­viewed. On March 26, the case was con­sid­ered in court, with­out the journalist’s par­tic­i­pa­tion. The court rul­ing was not yet report­ed to him. Ear­li­er, on Decem­ber 24, Ales Liauchuk was fined under sim­i­lar charges for 40 basic amounts (6 mil­lion rubles). On Jan­u­ary 22, 2015 the Brest region­al court turned down the appeal.

    March 19, Ihar Barysau, the edi­tor of the web­site Nash Mahilow, and his wife Ale­na Barysa­va were sum­moned to the Kas­trych­nit­s­ki dis­trict police of Mahilow. The police inspec­tor want­ed to find out the journalist’s rela­tion to the web­site. The jour­nal­ist was nei­ther a sus­pect nor a wit­ness in a case; the case under art. 188 part 2 (defama­tion) was not open yet. The jour­nal­ist refused to tes­ti­fy, under arti­cle 27 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Belarus. We remind that on March 12, the editor’s flat was searched. The police were con­duct­ing a check-up in rela­tion to an arti­cle dat­ed Jan­u­ary 8. The arti­cle alleged that a direc­tor gen­er­al of a local enter­prise in Mahilow had lost a big sum in a casi­no. Upon three hours’ search­es, infor­ma­tion car­ri­ers and per­son­al com­put­ers were seized, with­out seizure pro­to­cols.

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