Action Required: Support Freelance Journalists in Belarus
According to the Mass Media Law in Belarus, freelancers are not recognised as journalists and thus denied press accreditation (see English translation).
The Freelance Expert Group meeting on 18 November has welcomed a new member from BAJ, Andrei Klikunou and supported BAJ’s work on the issue. BAJ has adopted the EFJ Freelance Charter and translated it into Belarus language. To further this work, they are campaigning for the recognition of freelance journalists in the media law.
APPEAL TO THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION OF BELARUS
The Belarusian law “On Mass Media” does not contain the term “journalist”. Instead, it operates a much narrower notion of “a mass media journalist”: “a natural person engaged in collection, editing, creation (preparation) of informational reports and/or materials for the legal entity, which is entrusted with functions of the editorial board of the mass medium, who is connected with that legal entity through labor or other contractual relations.”
It is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of Belarus, regarding the freedom of expression and distribution of information (article 34) as well as international obligations of Belarus, and in practice it leads to administrative pressure and obstacles in journalistic activities of “freelancers”, when a journalist is not connected with any specific editorial office of mass media by any contractual relations, but simply offers his or her product to different mass media, for instance, to Web-resources.
Taking into account the said above,
We call upon you to improve the situation by means of inviting all stakeholders, including the national journalist organizations – the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Belarusian Union of Journalists – to a round table discussion, aimed at elaborating draft amendments to the Belarusian law “On Mass Media” with the purpose of introducing the status of freelance journalists to the national legislation to comply with the Constitution of Belarus and the international obligations of Belarus.
Also, we urge you to initiate the abolishment of mandatory press credentials for journalistic activities in Belarus, as contradicting to the Constitution and international obligations of the Republic of Belarus.
You can download the sheet on the EFJ website.