BELARUSIAN ASSOCIATION OF JOURNALISTS CALLS TO CANCEL 3 ARTICLES OF THE CRIMINAL CODE
On 5 September Belarusian Association of Journalists started a long-term campaign for canceling Art. 367, 368, and 369 of the Criminal Code. The articles carry for penalty for slander and insult of the President and top officials of the country. According to BAJ experts, these articles limit freedom of speech; contradict international norms and the Constitution. BAJ members intend to fight for their cancellation started collecting signatures for hearing this issue in the parliament.
Under those articles of the Criminal Code Belarusian authorities sentenced journalists of the independent newspaper Pahonia Mikola Markevich and Paval Mazheika to force labor. Editor of the independent newspaper Rabochy Viktar Ivashkevich will be tried under the same charges in the near future. In this situation any critics against any official is considered a crime, -- says BAJ lawyer Professor Mikhail Pastukhow. Pastukhow states: “We believe, these norms contradict European standards, disagree with the Constitution, and violate the principle of equality. This legislation has an openly repressive, terrorist nature, making some individuals untouchable”.
BAJ members intend to collect 50 thousand signatures, in order to address the Chamber of Representatives, proposing to cancel the repressive articles. The Association board addressed the public, and editorial boards of state-owned and independent mass media with an open letter, which underlines that such situation is problematic not only for journalists. BAJ President Zhanna Litvina says: “One of the aims of our appeal is to draw public attention to the problem. Such legislation results only in non-transparency of the authorities. The most important, every citizen of our country becomes exposed to charges under these articles”.
The campaign initiators plan to collect the necessary number of signatures by the end of this year and to propose this issue for consideration on the next Parliament session.