SOVETSKAYA BELARUSSIA -- SACRED COW OF BELARUSIAN POLITICS Viasna Lawyer Valantsin Stefanovic Comments Court Decision On Shydlowski Against State-Owned Newspaper Case
The decision of Savetski borough court of Minsk, which did not satisfy Shydlowski's civic suit, seems very symbolic on the background of verdicts to independent journalists and huge suits against independent newspapers. In such contexts Savetskaya Belorussia looks as a sacred cow, allowed to do whatever they want.
Viasna lawyer Valantsin Stefanovic, who represented Alaksei Shydlowski in court, comments the odious court decision:
In his article "Face with a Touch of Mind" Mr. Yakubovich attacked Alaksei Shydlowski, describing the prisoner of consciousness, convicted for political graffiti, as a petty criminal, who had left his wife and avoided paying alimony. At the same time Shydlowski has never had a wife or kids. Savetskaya Belorussia and its editor Yakubovich have definitely caused moral damage to Shydlowski. Shydlowski's mother testified in court. She said, that his home-town Stowbtsy is quite small, and all people in the town knew Shydlowski had been in prison for political graffiti. When Savetskaya Belorussia published the article, which was later voiced on Belarusian state TV channel, it was rumored in town that Shydlowski was not a political prisoner but just a petty alimony-escaper. Alaksei's mother said some people started mocking at her, and some said to her directly in her face: "Now we see, it turns out your son is just a criminal". Iryna Towstsik, Alaksei's girlfriend, testified in court about unpleasant consequences, caused by the article. Her parents lost trust to Alaksei as her boyfriend. I asked Iryna, what she had thought about Alaksei's conviction when they dated. She said she was absolutely ok about that because Alaksei had suffered for his political convictions. However, she thinks, alimony-evasion is really immoral.
Savetskaya Belorussia representative had the following position:
One cannot divide articles of the Criminal Code on more moral and less moral ones. All crimes are equally immoral, because they are described in the Criminal Code. If a person was once convicted, insisted the representative, it is impossible to do a moral damage to him. According to SB representative, the information published in the newspaper was not true, however, it did not do any moral damage to Shydlowski.
The court agreed with Savetskaya Belorussia and did not satisfy Shydlowski's suit against the newspaper. Such court position looks very symbolical on the background of forced labor sentences to journalists and editors of independent newspapers, and on the background of many-thousand suits of state officials against independent newspapers. Savetskaya Belorussia looks like a "sacred cow", which is allowed to do everything being the chief propaganda mouthpiece. I am disappointed with the court decision. On the other hand, it is a sign that we shouldn't have illusions about independence of our court system. We shouldn't have illusions, that the main ideologist of the country could be called to account through court, as it is done in civilized countries.