OSCE representative calls on Belarusian authorities to repeal accreditation requirements for journalists
Belarusian media law requires mandatory state accreditation for foreign and national journalists and recognizes only those journalists working for state-registered media organizations.
“I am concerned because this practice can effectively ban journalists from reporting,” Mijatović said. “Yesterday’s court decision against Andrey Meleshko underscores the need to address the issue now.”
According to reports, on 16 June the Oktyabrskiy District Court in Grodno fined freelance journalist Andrey Meleshko for 4.5 million Belarusian roubles (approximately €325) for working for Polish-based Radio Raciya without accreditation. The hearing followed a 17 May administrative warning issued to Meleshko by law enforcement.
Earlier this year Ales Zalevski and Alexander Denisov, journalists with Polish-based Belsat TV, were also convicted by courts and fined on the same administrative charges. Warnings have been issued to Svetalana Stepanova, Yevgeniy Skrebets, Yulia Sivets, Nikolay Benko and Yuri Deshuk for their affiliation with media outlets not officially registered.
“Accreditation should not be a license to work and the lack of it should not restrict journalists in their ability to work and express themselves freely,” Mijatović said. “All journalists should have the same professional rights as journalists employed with registered media outlets, including the right to seek and disseminate information.”
Mijatović also noted that on 5 June she wrote to Vladimir Makei, Foreign Minister of Belarus raising the need to reform the media accreditation requirements.
In 2008 the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media raised concern about the draft Law on the Mass Media, which is currently in force in Belarus, for complicated, burdensome systems of media registration and journalist accreditation. That statement is available at www.osce.org/fom/49860.