May 26 Hrodna Court Administrative Commission ruled to confiscate Den newspaper print-run and fine the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Mikola Markevich USD 10.
The Commission decided the chief editor is guilty of illegal distribution of the printed edition (Art 172 part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offences). According to Art 172, it is illegal to distribute editions produced with violation of the established order, editions without publishing information, and editions, which can damage the state or public order, rights and legal interests of the citizens. The police claimed one of the articles, published by Den, is potentially dangerous. The article contained the opinion of the head of entrepreneurs’ strike committee Valery Levanewski, who was reflecting upon the possibilities of civil protest.
Mr. Markevich considered the claim groundless, because he does not deal with distribution of the newspaper. Moreover, the newspaper was not distributed, since the print-run had been seized before its delivery to distributors.
By the way, the police seized the print-run of Den near the town of Iwye on April 7. However, the report was drawn only on April 29.
According to Markevich, the newspaper met all the requirements of the Law on Press. The issue had all publishing information in place. The newspaper contents threatened neither the public order nor the rights of the citizens. Mr. Levanewski’s opinion did not contradict the Constitution and contained no call for unlawful actions.
According to the vice-chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, lawyer Andrei Bastunets, the charges against Mikola Markevich were based on the Code article irrelevant to mass media activity. “According to Art 25 of the Law on Press and Other Mass Media, complete or partial confiscation of a print-run can take place only on the basis of court decision. In the case of Den newspaper, it turned out that by deciding to confiscate the print-run, the administrative commission had practically cancelled the power of the Law on Press,” – says Andrei Bastunets.
Mikola Markevich is going to file a complaint against the Commission’s decision to court.
The commission, which ruled to fine Markevich and seize the print-run, was composed of the following people:
1. Aleh Bialinski -- executive officer of Leninski borough Administration of Hrodna (head of commission)
2. Ksenia Yankowskaya – executive secretary of the commission
3. Alena Bahalubava – chief inspector of the social security department of the Leninski borough Administration
4. Sviatlana Kowshyk – expert of the economy department of Leninski borough Administration
5. Natalla Karotkina – representative of operation and repairing housing service
6. Maria Malchanava – head of department of the city Board for hygiene and epidemiology
7. Alaksei Radchanka-Yurechka – head of law and personnel department of tax inspection of Leninski borough
8. Mikalai Hancharenka – chief expert of housing and utilities department of Leninski borough