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  • Mass Media Week in Belarus. Info-posting October 26 – November 8, 2015

    The UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Haraszti presented the report on freedom of expression in Belarus to the UN General Assembly. Independence of the media in Belarus is impossible because of the permit-based nature of registration and arbitrary rules for withdrawal of licenses, says the report.

    The main conclusions of the report are as follows: there is no pluralism of mass media; Belarus is the only country in Europe without private all-national broadcasters; the government is a direct regulator for all types of mass media; critical expression and investigations are obstructed through criminalization of contents regarded as “harmful for the state”, with the help of the articles on criminal defamation and insult of public officials, in particular, of the president.

    On Octo­ber 26, the Asmi­any cus­toms office informed the lawyer from Homel Leanid Sudalen­ka that no signs of extrem­ism had been found either in his lap­top or the print prod­ucts seized from him, so he could come up and take them back. We remind that the equip­ment and print prod­ucts were seized from him on May 25, when Sudalen­ka was com­ing back from Vil­nius, from the forum on non-com­mer­cial law. He com­plained against the seizure to the Ash­mi­any dis­trict court, but the court dis­missed the com­plaint.

    On Octo­ber 29, the KGB pub­lished the press release that a spe­cial oper­a­tion had been held to detain a group of peo­ple who eaves­dropped on busi­ness­men, politi­cians, jour­nal­ists of state-run and inde­pen­dent media for three years. Accord­ing to the report, the KGB held over 80 search­es, revealed around 1500 pur­chasers of unlaw­ful ser­vices. For three years, the detainees con­duct­ed bug­ging and eaves­drop­ping, crack­ing e‑mails and accounts for com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Skype, Viber, What­sApp, of social accounts. Spe­cial equip­ment and for­eign cur­ren­cy were con­fis­cat­ed. Crim­i­nal cas­es have been ini­ti­at­ed against the sus­pects under art. 376, part 2 of the Crim­i­nal Code (unlaw­ful pro­duc­tion, pur­chase or sales of means of secret obtain­ing of infor­ma­tion, orga­nized by a group of peo­ple in con­spir­a­cy). The arti­cle envis­ages an impris­on­ment of up to 4 years. Also, there have been over 20 crim­i­nal cas­es against pur­chas­es of the ser­vices under art. 203 of the Crim­i­nal Code (vio­la­tion of pri­va­cy of cor­re­spon­dence, phone calls and oth­er type of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, postal, tele­graph or oth­er mes­sages). The KGB was car­ry­ing out oper­a­tional-search and inves­tiga­tive activ­i­ties aimed to reveal and doc­u­ment oth­er episodes of the unlaw­ful activ­i­ties of the sus­pects, and to estab­lish all clients of the crim­i­nal group and the peo­ple affect­ed by the activ­i­ties.

    On Octo­ber 28, the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters extend­ed the accred­i­ta­tion for the Euro­pean Radio for Belarus for one more year, until Novem­ber 10, 2016. The Euro­ra­dio start­ed to broad­cast on Feb­ru­ary 2006, the first accred­i­ta­tion was obtained on Novem­ber 2009.

    We remind that two out­lets specif­i­cal­ly designed for Belaru­sian audi­ences – the Radio Racy­ja and Bel­sat – have long time request­ed accred­i­ta­tion to work in Belarus, but got refusals only. The OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media Dun­ja Mija­tović empha­sized the issue dur­ing the vis­it on Sep­tem­ber 15 – 16, 2014, call­ing on the author­i­ties to abol­ish the out­dat­ed pro­ce­dure of accred­i­ta­tion which vio­lates people’s right to access infor­ma­tion.

    On Novem­ber 3, it became known about anoth­er episode of pres­sure on Ihar Barysau, the edi­tor of the news­pa­per Nash Mahilow. “After the police failed to hold him account­able under the crim­i­nal and admin­is­tra­tive law, tax inspec­tors start­ed to work on him,” reports the web­site eurobelarus.info. Tax inspec­tors ques­tioned the edi­tors’ acquain­tances, friends and oth­ers. On Octo­ber 28, an unknown man tried to enter his flat under the pre­text it was a sea­son­al check-up of com­mu­ni­ca­tions; where­as the com­mu­nal enter­prise denied that there were being held any check-ups at that moment, and neigh­bors also said nobody vis­it­ed them with the same pur­pose.

    On Novem­ber 4, the free­lancer from Hrod­na, BAJ mem­ber Ales Dzian­isau faced a ban to work and take pic­tures in the exhi­bi­tion hall, at the open­ing of an expo­si­tion of the French trav­el pho­tog­ra­ph­er Françoise Hughi­er. The direc­tor of the exhi­bi­tion hall Iry­na Sil­vanovich did not allow the jour­nal­ist to enter the venue. Mean­while, there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of oth­er inde­pen­dent mass media at the event.

    We remind that these were Iry­na Sil­vanovich and her hus­band, artist Ali­ak­san­dr Sil­vanovich who were sum­moned to tes­ti­fy as wit­ness­es in court against the free­lancers Ales Dzian­isau and Ali­ak­san­dr Kirke­vich in August 2015. Then, the jour­nal­ists were fined 25 b.a. each for that they had made a report about a pup­pet exhi­bi­tion in the same hall for Bel­sat TV chan­nel, and thus vio­lat­ed art. 22.9 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code.

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