Court turns down appeal by journalists in Mahiliou
On 16 February, the Judicial board on civil cases of the Mahiliou Regional Court considered an appeal lodged by the BelaPAN news agency, the private enterprise UzHorak, which publishes the newspaper of the same name, and journalist Uladzimir Laptsevich against a decision by the Horki District Court taken as a result of considering a claim for protection of honor, dignity and business reputation by chair of the district disabled persons’ organization Tamara Kaltunova.
As a result, the panel of judges ruled to find the court’s decision lawful and justified, dismissing the appeal.
According to the Chair of the Board Sviatlana Stalmakhova, the text of the decision can be received within ten days.
The judicial board did not take into account the testimony of journalist Uladzimir Laptsevich and UzHorak editor Halina Budnaya, who argued that the publications clearly presented the position of both parties to the conflict in the NGO, which they expressed in public court proceedings.
According to the journalists, they will definitely appeal the decision to higher courts.
On 18 December, Judge Viktar Yaskevich of the Horki District Court decided to collect from the publisher, BelaPAN and the journalist 6 mln rubles in moral damages for Tamara Kaltunova. The court also ordered the defendants to pay the legal costs incurred by Tamara Kaltunova in the amount of 780 thousand rubles.
In February 2014, Tamara Kaltunova, chair of the Horki district office of the Belarusian Society of the Disabled, filed a lawsuit against the newspaper and its editor Halina Budnaya. Tamara Kaltunova accused the newspaper of defamation and demanded to recover 50 million rubles and publish a rebuttal.
Having considered the lawsuit, the Court of Horki district came to the conclusion that the information published in the newspaper was obtained from the news agency BelaPAN. The court decided that Tamara Kaltunova should sue BelaPAN. Other defendants in the case were the private enterprise UzHorak and journalist Uladzimir Laptsevich, who prepared the materials for BelaPAN.
After several court hearings, on 17 April Judge Viktar Yaskevich suspended the consideration of the civil case.
In June 2013, the Horki District Prosecutor’s Office announced that from April 2001 to May 2004 Tamara Kaltunova used a passport with false data to illegally receive a pension of about 3.5 million rubles. On 18 May 2013, Tamara Kaltunova paid the full amount, admitting her guilt. In connection with the termination of the statute of limitations no criminal case was opened. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have repeatedly said that the actions of Tamara Kaltunova were illegal.