Human rights activist sues state TV company
Human rights defender Pavel Levinau has lodged a lawsuit against the National State TV and Radio Company (Belteleradyjokampanija), calling it “a public authority violating the right to freedom of expression”. He asks the Pieršamajski District Court of Minsk to order the media giant to provide him with airtime on the Belarus 1 TV channel.
In this way, the human rights activist wants to exercise his right to refute the information disseminated in a TV show called Editors’ Club aired on February 7, which, in his opinion, was untrue and humiliated his honor, dignity and business reputation.
The show, which was mainly devoted to the problems in Ukraine, also featured a discussion of a meeting of Belarusian human rights defenders with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, held in Vilnius on February 2. During the discussion, the guests gave negative assessment of human rights defenders’ actions.
In particular, the TV company’s chairman Henadz Davydzka repeatedly spoke disparagingly of human rights defenders, calling them “so-called human rights activists” who “inculcated some ideas on him [Miklós Haraszti]”. A TV program guest, member of the Minsk City Council Heorhi Atamanau, applied the term “human rights punks”.
Pavel Levinau, who was one of the participants of the Vilnius meeting, believes that the statements made on state television are not only untrue, but also insulting him personally:
“I have been engaged in human rights work for more than 40 years, I am member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and representative of the association in the city of Viciebsk and Viciebsk region. All that was voiced in the television show Editors’ Club is untrue and offensive to my honor and dignity. There was false information on human rights defenders, about our place and role in the Belarusian society, information that we are “human rights punks” and what we were doing some manipulation with the Special Rapporteur, whose mandate was introduced by resolution of the UN Human Rights Council.”
Before going to court, Pavel Levinau tried to resolve the issue by addressing the TV company directly. He referred to Article 41 of the Law “On Mass Media”, which guarantees the right to demand refuting information if this information is not true, humiliates honor, dignity or business reputation. However, the human rights defenders’ request was rejected.
Pavel Levinau also hoped to seek support from the Ministry of Interior. He wrote statements to the police, asking to prosecute participants in the TV show (under Article 9.3 of the Administrative Code (“insult”) for making incorrect statements in the air. But the police refused to help.