Supreme Economic Court turns down publisher’s lawsuit against Ministry of Information

2013 2013-11-18T17:43:49+0300 2013-11-18T17:43:49+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Ihar Lohvinau and Andrei Bastunets. Photo by Barys Haretski

Ihar Lohvinau and Andrei Bastunets. Photo by Barys Haretski

The Supreme Economic Court considered today a lawsuit filed by the publishing house “Lohvinau” requesting to cancel the order of the Ministry of Information to revoke the company’s license.

Back on September 23, the private publishing firm received from the Ministry of Information an official notification on deprivation of its license to engage in publishing activities. The license was stripped by a decision of the Ministry’s Board “in connection with gross violations of licensing legislation.” The allegations stemmed from the “Belarus Press Photo 2011” album, labeled as an extremist product by a ruling of the district court of Ashmiany of April 18, 2013. “Lohvinau” was then the publisher of the album.

During the court session, Judge Tatsiana Pratashyk heard a number of witnesses, including writers Uladzimir Arlou and Ihar Babkou, as well as press photographer and editor of the album Yulia Darashkevich. The journalist said that the examination carried out by experts of Hrodna Regional Executive Committee did not label the album “Press Photo 2013” as an extremist one, through it covered similar subjects. She also said that the album featured pictures that had previously appeared in the media, including state-owned ones.

Uladzimir Arlou said that the publisher had been working for 14 years, and released over 700 books, and is a significant contribution to the development of the Belarusian culture.

Ihar Babkou said that “Lohvinau” is not about the barricades and not a political project, but a project at the heart of the Belarusian culture. If the publishing house is closed, it is the Belarusian authors and readers who will suffer most, said the writer.

The company’s representative, Andrei Bastunets, questioned of the eligibility of a ministerial meeting that decided to strip the publisher’s license. The lawyer said the document only bears the signature of Minister Praliaskouski, with no names of the remaining nine members of the Board. The Judge, however, said that the legitimacy was confirmed by the Minister’s signature.

During the debates, a representative of the Ministry of Information ignored Bastunets’ criticism of the fact that the decision of the state body does not comply with the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

As a result, the Judge ruled to refuse to cancel the decision of the Ministry of Information. The decision can be appealed to the court of cassation.