Independent journalist from Mahiliou fined 6 million rubles
Aliaksandr Burakou was punished for “cooperating with the foreign media”.
Judge Alena Volkava from the Leninski district court of Mahiliou issued a fine of 46 million Belarusian rubles to a freelance journalist on October 8, BelaPAN reports.
On September 16, seven police officers headed by major Uladzimir Puhachou raided Aliaksandr Burakou's flat. His wife's two laptops were seized. The flat of Burakou's parents was also searched. The police seized two computer cases. The search warrant said that Burakou was cooperating with the website of Deutsche Welle without accreditation. Burakou's case was submitted to Mahiliou's Leninski district court at the end of September. The police accused the journalist of publishing his article “Road of Smuggler: If Russian Sanctions Work in Border Districts” on the website of Deutsche Welle that violated part 2 of article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences (illegal production of media products).
Burakou said at the trial the article on Deutsche Welle's website was not only his work, because, for example, the title differed from the one proposed by him. “The text was sent to several media outlets. It is their decision what will be published and how. This is how freelancers work,” the journalist says.
He turned attention to the fact that the search documents contained errors, so he doubts if they had legal force and demands an additional examination. Judge Volkava said she founded the documents legal.
Burakou's lawyer said the offence that the journalist was charged with could not be applied to an individual. According to her, articles appear on website due to the work of many people, not only journalists, so following the prosecutor's logic, they must be taken to account, too.
Moreover, the police reports don't say why it was concluded that Burakou has employment relationships with Deutsche Welle's website. “It wasn't recorded anywhere that Burakou worked without the accreditation of the Belarusian MFA. The prosecutor's office didn't issue Burakou a warning against working for the foreign media without accreditation,” the lawyer said.
Witnesses from the police failed to confirm they saw how Burakou was making the article on the internet and the expert examination didn't answer it, too, according to the lawyer.
Judge Volkava found Mr. Burakou guilty and fined him.
“Rhe families of Belarusian journalists have faced terror. It was an act of intimidation,” Aliaksandr Burakou said.
The judge didn't question major Puhachou as a witness, though he was near her office for two days and she knew it, Burakou notes. “I think it is because major Puhachou cannot answer her questions,” the journalist said, adding that he would appeal against the court decision. According to him, he is ready to appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee.
It's worth noting that on 29 October 2013, judge Alena Volkava recognized leaflets as the mass media and said an agreement was needed to distribute them. The judge also thinks that signature sheets are also mass media.