Court Rejects Appeal against Prosecutor’s Warning
On August 26 the Central district court of Homel was supposed to consider the appeal of Mikola Bianko: the journalist complained against the warning issued by the first prosecutor’s deputy of Homel region. The journalist was accused of violating the law by making materials for Poland-based Radio Racyja without accreditation. The journalist holds the opinion that the official’s actions violated his constitutional rights and lawful interests.
Unfortunately, the judge rejected the appeal claiming the one-month period for appealing against prosecutor’s decision had expired.
The warning was issued to Mikola Bianko and his wife Yuliya Sivets on March 5. He first complained against the warning to the regional and the General prosecutor’s office. The regional prosecutor’s office replied on March 25, the General prosecutor’s office replied on May 25 – both appeals dismissed. The appeal to court was filed on May 29, which was within appeal terms, says Leanid Sudalenka, the lawyer of BAJ from Homel.
The judge did not seem friendly, as she refused to hold the hearing in the Belarusian language, what the plaintiff motioned for, and forbade Leanid Sudalenka to speak on the journalist’s behalf, although he can be representative of a BAJ member by law. The judge also forbade taking pictures.
Mikola Bianko will appel further and hopes that the case will be considered on the merits.
“I totally disagree with the warning. I consider the prosecutor’s office as a supervisory body and other law enforcement agencies must do their job, but not run around searching for journalists and prosecute them under absolutely empty pretexts. So, first I appealed to the regional, and the General prosecutor’s office, and then to court in order to acknowledge this warning ungrounded and unlawful.”
The journalist also thinks the materials mentioned in the warning were just a formal reasoning, because some of them, for example about Chernobyl, were made two years before. He thinks another thing matters:
“My personal opinion is this: before the warning we had been doing lot of reports about Ukraine, about Euromajdan. This is a demonstrative punishment in which they find a way to stick to the media law and to the instruction on accreditation of foreign correspondents.”
The journalist thinks the procedure of accreditation at the MFA is archaic. It is rather typical of countries in the 19th and the beginning of 20th century, but not in 21st century with the web when anyone can write materials for anywhere in the world.
“The political implication of the accreditation procedure is clear, but I absolutely disagree. It is practically impossible to get legal possibilities to cooperate with foreign media. Everybody knows it, because even the same Radio Racyja have applied to the MFA dozens of times, and got refusals. The same thing is with Belsat, a number of Polish media, many other media who try to get accredited but get refusals for no sensible reasons.”