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  • Mass Media Week in Belarus. Info-posting October 5 – 25, 2015

    The presidential elections on October 11 went by with many violations of journalists’ rights, such as denial of information on electoral updates, interference into their work at and near polling stations, bans to take photo and video recording.

    On Octo­ber 3, at noon the non-state agency Bela­PAN was sub­ject to DDoS attack, after its web­site naviny.by pub­lished an arti­cle about the reli­gious-polit­i­cal action “A prayer for Belarus” with par­tic­i­pa­tion of Alexan­der Lukashen­ka. The arti­cle crit­i­cized meth­ods for orga­niz­ing the event, quot­ed opin­ions of stu­dents who were forced to take part in the action. ON Octo­ber 5, BAJ made a state­ment denounc­ing the attack: “We think it is anoth­er man­i­fes­ta­tion of the sys­temic pol­i­cy of con­trol over infor­ma­tion in our coun­try aimed to manip­u­late pub­lic opin­ion. We back the demand of the infor­ma­tion­al com­pa­ny Bela­PAN to ensure prop­er main­te­nance for web­sites in the ter­ri­to­ry of Belarus and pro­tect them from any attacks. BAJ calls to stop any attacks on mass media in order to ensure the con­sti­tu­tion­al cit­i­zen right to get uncen­sored infor­ma­tion from mul­ti­ple sources.”

    On Octo­ber 6 in Brest, jour­nal­ists Ales’ Liauchuk and Milana Khary­ton­a­va had to deal with inter­fer­ence on behalf of an observ­er at the polling sta­tion of the Brest State Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty. The jour­nal­ists sur­veyed stu­dents who had come to vote in ear­ly vot­ing under pres­sure. The stu­dents said that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the uni­ver­si­ty con­trolled stu­dents’ turnout in ear­ly vot­ing. The jour­nal­ists found out that the con­troller was Svi­at­lana Kur­gan, deputy dean of the uni­ver­si­ty, who was accred­it­ed at the polling sta­tion as an observ­er from the pub­lic asso­ci­a­tion Belaya Rus’. The jour­nal­ists said that Svi­at­lana Kur­gan inter­fered when the stu­dents were being inter­viewed, made them deny what they were say­ing. She refused to intro­duce, said she was just a per­son from the street; and she promised to sue the jour­nal­ists for defama­tion.

    On Octo­ber 8, a jour­nal­ist from non-state news­pa­per Intex-press (Baranavichy) want­ed to know the num­ber of cit­i­zens who had vot­ed in ear­ly vote; how­ev­er, the chair­per­son of the Baranavichy city elec­toral com­mis­sion Tama­ra Shukala said that they did not have that infor­ma­tion. Lat­er, Intex-press received the fig­ures about ear­ly vot­ers from the Brest region­al elec­toral com­mis­sion. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­mis­sion said they were gath­er­ing the data from the city elec­toral com­mis­sion. Lawyers of the news­pa­per filed a com­plaint to the Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion.

    On Octo­ber 9, Art­siom Lia­va, jour­nal­ist of the news­pa­per Novy Chas, was tak­ing pho­tos at polling sta­tion No 29 in Min­sk. Ale­na Pazen­ka, head­mas­ter of the school hous­ing the polling sta­tion, claimed that the jour­nal­ist inter­fered into the elec­toral process, com­piled a report against him and made him leave the polling sta­tion. The jour­nal­ist com­plained to CEC, how­ev­er, the com­mis­sion stat­ed that the actions of the mem­ber of the elec­toral com­mis­sion were law­ful. We remind that accord­ing to art. 13 of the Elec­toral Code, media rep­re­sen­ta­tives have the right to be present on the premis­es of polling sta­tions and attend meet­ings of elec­toral com­mis­sions. Jour­nal­ists have the right to gath­er infor­ma­tion and receive infor­ma­tion from state bod­ies accord­ing to art. 34 of the Law on Mass Media.

    On Octo­ber 9, a jour­nal­ist of the web­site Bobruyskiy Couri­er Alexan­dra Glagoleva was mak­ing a report from polling sta­tion No 20 in Babruysk. The chair­per­son of the elec­toral com­mis­sion first denied the journalist’s right to stay there, then final­ly reg­is­tered her as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of mass media, but with the con­di­tion that the jour­nal­ists takes one pho­to and leaves. The jour­nal­ist had noth­ing to do but leave; she report­ed about the inci­dent and filed a com­plaint to the prosecutor’s office.

    On Octo­ber 11, Art­siom Lia­va was not allowed to report from polling sta­tion No 33 in Lenin dis­trict in Min­sk (the chair­per­son – Dzmit­ry Ahu­lik). The grounds for the denied access was a report against the jour­nal­ist com­piled a day ear­li­er. It was writ­ten that the jour­nal­ist “vio­lat­ed rules at the polling sta­tion”, as result “issues arose about uncom­fort­able” elec­toral process (“he stopped the vot­ers and asked them ques­tions”). He refused to sit at a par­tic­u­lar place in order not to stand in vot­ers’ way. The whole pre­vi­ous day, there were no com­plaints at the polling sta­tion; the jour­nal­ist thinks that com­mis­sion from No 33 had had infor­ma­tion from sta­tion No 29, and there was a cen­tral­ized deci­sion not to allow him to polling sta­tions. He filed a com­plaint to the prosecutor’s office.

    On Octo­ber 9, in the evening, two shoot­ing teams of the Ukrain­ian chan­nel 1+1 were detained on the Belaru­sian-Ukrain­ian bor­der, the infor­ma­tion pub­lished by Vol­ha Malcheuskaya, jour­nal­ist of TSN chan­nel, in her Twit­ter. The detainees were ques­tioned by the KGB, a scrupu­lous cus­toms inspec­tion was per­formed. After that, the jour­nal­ists were allowed entry to Belarus, noth­ing was seized.

    On Octo­ber 11, a jour­nal­ist of the Pol­ish web­site Eastbook.eu tried to shoot the count­ing of bal­lots at polling sta­tion No 6 at the Per­shamays­ki dis­trict in Min­sk. Mem­bers of the com­mis­sion shield­ed them­selves with chairs; when she demand­ed that she want­ed to see the process, the chair­per­son of the com­mis­sion Natal­lia Kunouskaya replied that she was the chief and she dic­tat­ed the rules. A mem­ber of the com­mis­sion also demand­ed that she did not want to be seen in the video. The chair­per­son of the elec­toral com­mis­sion said that the jour­nal­ist was vio­lat­ing the rights of the per­son and ordered her to stay away from the table where bal­lots were count­ed.

    On Octo­ber 12, from 1.20 to 1.35 at night, web­sites nn.by, char­ter97.org, belarus­par­ti­san.org, naviny.by, euro­ra­dio.fm were inac­ces­si­ble, report­ed Nasha Niva. The out­let under­lined that the glitch was strange because the out­lets belong to dif­fer­ent servers and domain zones.

    On Octo­ber 15, the jour­nal­ist from Hrod­na Vik­tar Parfio­nen­ka report­ed that he had filed a com­plaint to the UN HRC against the facts that the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs had sev­en times denied accred­i­ta­tion to him as a cor­re­spon­dent of the Belaru­sian Radio Racy­ja (Poland). The jour­nal­ist tried to protest against the denials of accred­i­ta­tion in court, but it was use­less.

    On Octo­ber 16, it was report­ed that the police of Kas­trych­nit­s­ki dis­trict of Hrod­na failed to find crimes com­po­nents in facts list­ed in com­plaint of the jour­nal­ist, BAJ mem­ber Andrei Mialesh­ka. In August 2015, he com­plained to the police ask­ing to find authors of a defam­a­to­ry arti­cle about the jour­nal­ist and his fam­i­ly mem­bers, which was pub­lished on a Russ­ian web­site. The police found out who admin­is­tered the web­site and asso­ci­at­ed social media from the web­site – the authors live in the same city as the jour­nal­ist. How­ev­er, the police did not find crime com­po­nents and are not going to ini­ti­ate crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings. The jour­nal­ist intends to com­plain to the prosecutor’s office.

    After the elec­tions, the edi­to­r­i­al office of Nasha Niva request­ed a pos­si­bil­i­ty from Lidziya Yarmoshy­na, chair­per­son of the Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion, to see the min­utes of all polling sta­tions in the cap­i­tal. The reply from Lidziya Yarmoshy­na says that CEC does not have the doc­u­ments – they stayed at the Min­sk City Com­mis­sion. How­ev­er, then the city com­mis­sion had ceased its work, no one picked up the phone. The jour­nal­ists want­ed to ver­i­fy infor­ma­tion that at many polling sta­tions min­utes were re-writ­ten after the bal­lot count com­plet­ed, and did not coin­cide with the data pub­li­cized imme­di­ate­ly after the bal­lots were count­ed.

    On Octo­ber 23, it was report­ed that the state exam­i­na­tion com­mis­sion did not find extrem­ism in the book by Ana­tol Liabedz­ka, leader of the Unit­ed Civ­il Par­ty. The book “108 days and nights behind bars in the KGB”, in 30 copies, was seized from its author on May 9, 2015 on the bor­der point Kamen­ny Loh. Now the Ash­mi­any cus­toms office offi­cial­ly informed that he could take the books back.

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