Editor of independent newspaper fined on anonymous charges
Heorhi Stankevich, a teacher of the town of Beshankovichy, Vitsebsk region, has been fined 7.5 million rubles for illegally publishing and distributing the newspaper “Kryvinka”. However, the anonymous statement that was used to charge the activist did not mention the self-published newspaper. The police were urged to “see to the matter”, but they accused the editor and publisher of violating the law on mass media, instead.
The anonymous letter allegedly written by Stankevich’s fellow villagers was first mentioned in the case file, which was considered on April 2 by the Beshankovichy District Court. Judge Natallia Reut rejected a request for an interpreter, as Heorhi Stankevich is Belarusian-speaking. And she flatly refused to adjourn the trial so that a lawyer experienced in mass media law could arrive from Minsk. And then the Judge removed the defendant from the courtroom for alleged violation of public order.
On April 3, he received the verdict of a fine of 50 basic units. However, it says that Heorhi Stankevich left the courtroom himself, and was not ordered by the Judge, although the incident was witnessed by many people, including several BAJ members, and a policeman on duty.
The publisher of Kryvinka says it’s no longer a secret for him why the judge insisted on finishing the trial so soon: in the case file, he saw an order to deal with the anonymous charge by March 13.
“I understand that the authorities do not like Kryvinka, since it covers acute problems. It is in this that I have to be “stopped”, as it is written in the anonymous letter. But I will not stop! And I will appeal against the decision of the district court. Especially because during the trial there were a lot of violations, which failed to be responded by the presiding judge or the prosecutor,” says the founder and publisher of Kryvinka.
For the famous bard, poet, member of the Union of Belarusian Writers and teacher, it is the third penalty on similar charges. The troubles, as he himself says, begin at the time of some significant public events. For example, the first administrative case against him and Kryvinka was opened during the 2010 local elections, when Mr. Stankevich was running for the District Council. The case ended with a fine of 20 basic units.