REN-TV Reporters Detained for Interviewing Zubr Members
June 6, 2004 journalists of the Russian TV channel REN-TV were detained in the center of Minsk while interviewing 2 members of Zubr youth group. BAJ press-service reports, the reporters were detained by special police officers in civil clothes who claimed the camera crew needed permission of the presidential security service for filming in the center of Minsk.
REN-TV reporter Elena Slav and cameraman Alexei Pokrovsky interviewed Zubr activists on Kastrychnitskaya Square near the ONT board. Zubr members Katsiaryna Klimko and Maksim Hromaw were talking about the criminal action against them for political graffiti “Free Marynich!”
Elena Slav told BAJ press-service, she saw two young guys pretending to be curious passers-by. In some time they came closer and showed their special police (AMAP) certificates. They claimed it was not allowed to film in the center of Minsk, because of many “restricted buildings” around, and that special permission of the Presidential Security Service is needed. According to Elena Slav, the Security Service officials just laughed when she told them the story.
The journalists had credentials from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. However, the AMAP officers claimed the documents were forged and insisted both the TV crew and the interviewees should come with them to Centralny police station. They also detained another Zubr activist Yawhen Afnahel who observed the incident.
In the police station the journalists made numerous phone calls to the Russian consulate, press-service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and other bodies, and were immediately released. Zubr members had to spend about 2 hours in the police station. The police did not press any charges against them.
According to the young people, the police officers told them the main reason for their detention was the interview to a Russian TV channel.
Elena Slav is pretty sure the AMAP officers had tapping devices and could listen to their conversation from a distance. She is amazed at the undue familiarity of the staff of the law-enforcing bodies, who refused to tell the journalists their names, saying they were just “Valerka” and “Stasik”.
Similar incident has recently happened to journalists of another Russian TV channel. TVTs channel reporter Vera Dashkevich and cameraman Vladimir Andronov conducted an opinion survey in the center of Minsk (near McDonald’s restaurant) about a possible symbol for a Belarusian ruble. AMAP field officers came up to the cameraman to find out what kind of questions he was asking. One of the AMAP officers uttered a threat they would confiscate the film from the reporters if “questions did not correspond to the topic of the program”.