Ministry of Justice issues official warning to Belarusian Association of Journalists
The Ministry of Justice of Belarus laid several claims to the Belarusian Association of Journalists. BAJ considers them groundless and is going to appeal against the warning.
On 15 January 2009 the Belarusian Association of Journalists received an official warning, signed on 13 January by the Deputy Minister of Justice Aliaksandr Simanau. A copy of the warning was sent to the Ministry of Information.
The Ministry of Justice thinks the official BAJ IDs illegally contains words Press and Прэса (Press in Belarusian), although the Association is not a media outlet. The Ministry is sure BAJ violates the Media Law due to thus fact.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice believes the activity of the Legal Center for Media Protection attached to BAJ is ‘not provided for by the statutes of the organization’.
‘Besides, the objectives of this institution, stated in the Regulations on it, go beyond the statute objectives of the BAJ’, the letter from the Ministry of Justice goes.
The Ministry also complains about information about BAJ objectives on the web site of the Association not corresponding to the statute.
The Ministry of Justice obliges the management of BAJ to withdraw all the organization IDs within a month, to eliminate all the other ‘violations’ and to report to the Ministry about the elimination.
BAJ is going to appeal against the warning at court.
Andrei Bastunets, Deputy Chairperson of BAJ, says the warning of the Ministry of Justice is ‘strange’.
"The Ministry of Justice itself states BAJ is not a media outlet. So, it’s difficult to understand how an NGO could violate the Media Law. There is no such thing as an approved form of an ID of an NGO member. Thus, it is impossible to violate the rules, which do not exist. The Media Law contains no such notion as press, thus we are not able to violate the Media Law by using this word on BAJ member’s ID.’
‘The warning we received from the Ministry of Justice contains a sentence about ‘BAJ objectives stated on the web site of the Association not corresponding to the statute’. And there are no clarification on what objectives do not correspond to what provisions of the statute,’ Zhanna Litvina, the Chairperson of BAJ, comments.
As for the Legal Center for Media Protection, it is an organization department of BAJ that acts on the basis of respective regulations.‘Activities of the Legal Center for Media Protection are provided for by the Statute of BAJ, which is approved by the Ministry of Justice. It is difficult to imagine what violations the Ministry could have found suddenly in the regulation that has been in use for seven years. I think we will receive answers to these questions after we appeal with an official complain to the Supreme Court’ Andrei Bastunets adds.