Journalists and activists in Vitsebsk face charges over photos

2014 2014-11-19T17:34:37+0300 2014-11-19T17:34:37+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Several journalists in Vitsebsk were photographed against a background image on the wall of a building – the image of three cages and a paper bird leaving the cages. The people in the photographs are holding paper birds or cages. Now they are invited to the police station and charged with an administrative offense.

On November 18, journalist Dzmitry Kazakevich received a phone call from head of prevention and protection department of the Chyhunachny district police department Aliaksandr Rybak. He told Mr. Kazakevich that he should come to the police station to provide clarification concerning his participation in an unsanctioned rally.

Dzmitry Kazakevich said that he was ready to explain the only thing: he was really photographed in the company of friends and acquaintances, but it was a photo session, not an action:

“How can there be a connection between photography and an unauthorized action? Various people take pictures in the city, such as weddings, tourists, visitors to Vitsebsk. Then these pictures are posted online, including on Facebook. So, all of them are offenders, too? The police officer said that the joint photographs of several people on a background of graffiti, which were posted on Facebook, are proof of a mass gathering. For, as he says, then these photos appeared on Internet sites, and therefore, they say, it is not our private matter, but an unauthorized action. This is a misunderstanding: I did not send any photos to the sites, was not involved in any actions - only pictures. After that, I happen to be involved in an unauthorized action! Do you now need permission to be photographed for social networks? In our pictures, it is clearly visible that we are not holding a poster, not shouting and not demanding anything. Even the printouts of the websites, which the policeman showed me, do not have the word “action”! So I think the accusation is absolutely groundless.”

Nevertheless, Dzmitry Kazakevich was charged with an administrative offense under Article 23.34 as a participant of an unauthorized action. The police also announced the date of the trial, November 28.

Another BAJ member, Kanstantsin Mardvintsau, said that his trial was appointed on December 1.

“I talked to the very policeman, Aliaksandr Rybakou. He was confident that I somehow expressed my public opinions by being photographed with graffiti on the background. Where did he get this confidence, I do not understand. He asked whether the police had any claims to the artist who painted it. Mr. Rybakou said: “It was a long time ago.” Faced with this attitude, I stated that Article 27 of the Constitution gives me the right not to incriminate myself and refused to answer any questions. In the report, I wrote that I disagreed with the policeman’s version who thinks that I'm an offender.”

Similar invitations have been received by the coordinator of the organizing committee of the BCD party Tatsiana Seviarynets and activist Alena Shabunia. Both are convinced that publication of personal pictures on a social network cannot be proof of their participation in any action. Especially because neither of them posted the pictures. And they cannot be responsible for any interpretation of these pictures when they were used by some other online resource.

The photos of journalists and activists were posted on a Facebook account called “Our People in the City”. It can be viewed by anyone and features links to articles about Vitsebsk, photos of the city and its residents.