The Belarusian Ministry of Justice says the infamous Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code (illegal NGO membership) may soon be repealed. The statement was made at the OSCE annual Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw, Poland. Representatives of Belarusian NGOs have presented their reports on the situation in the field of freedom of association in Belarus, including the application of Article 193-1 as a means of harassing members of unregistered NGOs. Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, spoke on Nasha Viasna’s registration trial at the Supreme Court on 10-12 August 2009.
News for September 2009
30.09.2009 Mass arrests of opposition leaders in Minsk
The United Civil party leader Anatol Lyabedzka and the chairman of the Communist party Syarhei Kalyakin were detained.
Anatol Lyabedzka, the UCP leader, was arrested first. With activists of his party he was handing out leaflets about the anti-crisis platform of the United Democratic Forces.
The detained leader of the party Anatol Lyabedzka and activist Alyaksandr Stsepanenka were taken to the police department of Savetski district of Minsk.
Later the leader of the Communist party of Belarus Syarhei Kalyakin was detained while handing out leaflets near the entrance of Minsk Tractor plant.
Militia confiscated information materials for “expert examination” from Vasil Palyakou, an activist of the United Civil Party from Homel.
On September 29, Ryma Yastremskaya, the ideology deputy head of the Rahachou district executive committee, and a group of people detained head of the UCP Homel region branch Vasil Palyakou, Radio Svaboda reports.
The oppositionist was handing round leaflets calling the local authorities to return privileges for travelling by community transport to pensioners, students, schoolchildren, and physically disabled.
29.09.2009 Reporters Without Borders call on Belarusian authorities to stop obstructing work of journalists
Four days after a joint international press freedom mission to Belarus, Reporters Without Borders today called on the Belarusian government to stop obstructing the work of journalists working for foreign news media.
The press freedom organisation has signed a statement issued by the mission at the end of its five-day visit noting that: “Accreditation of journalists working for Belarus or foreign media, as well as the registration of offices of media, are restricted by non-transparent and discriminatory decisions of the authorities.”
Masty and Shchuchyn district authorities have imposed another ban on holding local constituent assemblies of the Belarusian European Forum, due on 14 November in Minsk, saying that the applicants violated the provisions of the Law on Mass Actions, namely they failed to present documents certifying the organizers’ legal responsibility for the meetings. According to Ales Zarembiuk, For Freedom member and one of the applicants, the decision had different underlying reasons: ‘After all the attempts of obtaining legal permission to hold a meeting, it becomes clear that the authorities do not want the Forum to be known among the general public.’
28.09.2009 Authorities afraid of people’s protests
Brest activists of the democratic forces were banned to hold 52 pickets against decline in material standing of people.
It was planned to hold pickets in Brest on September 30. The objective was attracting attention of public and governmental bodies to the decline in material standing caused by consumer goods price increase, decrease in purchasing power and actual wages, and consolidating the efforts of people in their struggle for social and economic rights.
The Assembly of Belarusian NGOs is going to arrange a round table discussion ‘Article 193-1: Criminal Prosecution for Activities by Unregistered Organizations in Belarus’ as part of the annual OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland on 30 September. The discussion will cover the most burning questions of the freedom of associations in Belarus, including the practical application of the notorious Article 193-1 of the Belarusian Criminal Code and analysis on the measures aimed at improving the situation with Belarusian NGOs taken by the Belarusian authorities in the context of Belarus-EU dialogue. The meeting will be attended by representatives of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Human Rights Center Viasna and the NGO Assembly.
A group of international media and press freedom organisations today called upon the Belarus authorities to bring the country’s media environment into accordance with international standards, following the visit of a joint delegation to Minsk from 20 to 24 September 2009.
The group welcomes recent changes and recognises that pressure on media and journalists has eased. However, this must be translated into a lasting commitment to ensure the rights of journalists and to undertake much needed reforms of the media environment. Such changes need to be far reaching and irreversible.
Vadzim Arshynski, Mahiliou cameraman and artist, has been warned by the city prosecutor’s office for ‘unauthorized shooting and interviewing’ during a charity performance at an orphanage in the town of Chavusy in December 2008, the Belarusian Association of Journalists reports. Mr.Arshynski was warned by a registered letter, without any direct conversations with representatives of the public prosecution bodies. Mahiliou city prosecutor Siarhei Minaeu also accused Vadzim Arshynski of unauthorized publication of the interviews on the Belsat TV channel web-site. However, Mr.Arshynski claims he did not interview anyone during the concert, only videotaping the action.