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  • Third fine for freelance journalism. The court failed to pay attention to contradictions

    On 14 March, the Homiel District Court fined the freelance journalists Kastus Zhukouski and Andrei Tolchyn for 25 base amounts (about EUR 255) each. This is the third fine for freelancing these Homiel residents receive this year.


    The jour­nal­ists were found guilty of ille­gal­ly pro­duc­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing media prod­ucts for the Pol­ish satel­lite TV chan­nel Bel­sat with­out accred­i­ta­tion.

    In mid-Feb­ru­ary, the web site of Bel­sat post­ed infor­ma­tion and videos about the mass slaugh­ter of pigs at the farm-mill Sozh in the Homiel dis­trict. Based on these mate­ri­als, Police Cap­tain Jakau Sukha­jk­ou, an inspec­tor at the Homiel dis­trict police depart­ment, drew up the admin­is­tra­tive reports under Arti­cle 22.9, Part 2 of the Admin­is­tra­tive Code.

    Kas­tus Zhuk­ous­ki told Judge Andrei Sus­la that there is no inde­pen­dent judi­cia­ry in Belarus. He explained that he had not sent any video record­ings to Bel­sat but only to a num­ber of agen­cies includ­ing N.E.W.S. Infor­ma­c­je. Also, he pub­lished them on his YouTube account in the pub­lic domain. Besides, the sto­ry on Bel­sat has an author – Vol­ha Starastsi­na.

    The judge reject­ed Zhukouski’s request to sum­mon the police­man as well as the sales­women of the farm shop who told the free­lancers that there were no pork for sale at the shop dur­ing the pre­vi­ous week. The sales­women could have con­firmed who had been shoot­ing the sto­ry and how he had named him­self.

    At the police’s ini­tia­tivee, only the farm’s secu­ri­ty guard Niko­lai Miad­viedzieu was sum­moned to the court. How­ev­er, he failed to rec­og­nize nei­ther Zhuk­ous­ki nor Tolchyn.

    «A young man and a girl came on 13 Feb­ru­ary. The guy took pic­tures of the farm’s plan. He was wear­ing a jack­et and looked a bit like Zhuk­ous­ki. But I didn’t see Tolchyn at all», the guard tes­ti­fied.

    The court ignored the expla­na­tions of Zhuk­ous­ki and Tolchyn. They argued that they are not jour­nal­ists at Bel­sat; they do not have an employ­ment rela­tion­ship with the TV chan­nel and there­fore they are not accred­it­ed in the Belaru­sian For­eign Min­istry. The free­lancers sug­gest­ed to send an inquiry to Bel­sat.

    The judge did not take into account these and oth­er con­tra­dic­tions and sen­tenced the free­lancers to heavy fines.

    «The court exe­cut­ed the order it had received. A dif­fer­ent ver­dict should not have been expect­ed», said Andrei Tolchyn.

    The fines Tolchyn received this year for his free­lance activ­i­ties amount­ed to BYN 2,695 (about EUR 1,120), and Zhuk­ous­ki – BYN 2,572.5 (about EUR 1,070).

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