Babruysk Blogger Fined for YouTube Video
On January 30, 2014 Aleh Zhalnou (Oleg Zhelnov, Ru) came to a meeting with Aliaksandr Vasilyeu, head of the police department of the Babruysk City Executive Committee.
The duty officer demanded to leave all personal belongings, so the blogger took out his cell phone, a video camera, a netbook to leave it at the cloakroom.
However, later on, a video appeared on the blogger’s YouTube channel showing the meeting between the blogger and the police officer. The video does not show faces, only voices are heard.
So, the blogger was held accountable under article 23.4 of the Administrative Code – “disobeying legal demands of an official representative in performance of duties”. That is to say, he did not leave all devices at the entrance, as the duty officer had demanded.
The trial lasted in three open hearings, with testimonies of the police officers involved.
According to the police officers, the decree of the Home Affairs Ministry № 185 (labelled “for official use only”), with an annexed instruction, stipulate that police officers can demand that visiting citizens should not carry on them any audio or video recording devices, including cell phones.
Aleh Zhalnou argued that the Constitution of Belarus ensures the citizens’ rights to gather, store and disseminate information that is not state or commercial secret. A meeting with an official representative cannot be a secret or “restricted”. Since the Ministry’s decree is not registered in the Register of state acts, it is not a legal document and is not obligatory for citizens. Besides, the blogger argued that a Ruling by the Council of Ministers demands that all legal acts related to citizens must be open for public access.
In spite of all the arguments, Judge Natallia Shegeda decided to fine the blogger for 45 basic amounts (which is 5.850.000, or 425 euro). The blogger is going to appeal the decision.