BAJ Urges State Bodies to Provide Info on Patriots’ Case
The Belarusian Association of Journalists filed a petition to the Investigative Committee, the General prosecutor’s office and the KGB, demanding to hold a press conference for all mass media and present official information concerning the investigation into the criminal cases widely discussed lately, the so-called cases of “Bely Legion” and the “case of patriots”.
In March, 26 people were detained according to charges of art. 293, part 3 of the Criminal Code (preparation of mass disorders). Many of those detained had been members of the organization Bely Legion, which was closed down 15 years ago, and some of them are current members of the Babruisk-based club “Patriot”. Also, some activists of Malady Front, youth organization registered in Prague, were detained. The detentions followed a statement of Aliaksandr Lukashenka on March 21 claiming about “militants who were preparing an armed provocation”. Some of the detainees have been set free under recognizance, while 18 people are still in prison.
The petition addressed to the Investigative Committee, the General prosecutor’s office and the KGB calls on them to hold a press conference for all kinds of Belarusian mass media in order to present official information concerning the investigation into the criminal cases, that have been widely discussed lately, the so-called cases of “Bely Legion” and the “case of patriots”.
Some state mass media (TV channels Belarus 1, STV, ONT, newspaper SB. Belarus Segodnya etc.) dedicated reports to these cases based on investigative information, as they claimed it. Meantime, the reports were anonymous, as well as the sources who had provided the information from the criminal cases; the materials often looked subjective and biased.
Meanwhile, information for media publication concerning criminal cases has to be aimed for providing citizens with full, precise and timely information from state bodies – this should not be its subjective interpretation by anonymous authors. Information has to be provided fully with observance of all rights and lawful interests of all parties in the criminal case, third parties concerned, without violation of the secrecy of investigation, rights and interests of other persons, and the state. It is inadmissible to publish in the media at a pre-trial stage those materials of a criminal case that have evidentiary value and are to be assessed in a court hearing.
“In our view, the information on the above mentioned criminal cases distributed in a number of state media, with reference to investigative bodies as sources, does not comply with these provisions of the Regulation (the Regulation on providing information to mass media on high-profile criminal cases and cases undermining the reputation of state authorities, 01.10.2008 № 59/4/283/49/52) and violates equality between mass media, as well as the right of citizens to receive full and timely information about activities of state bodies,” says the statement.
BAJ also draws attention to the fact that analogical coverage is given to the cases of Yury Paulavets, Siarhei Shyptsenka and Dzmitry Alimkin, who “have been under arrest for over four months, charged with inciting national hatred in materials published on the website of the Russian informational agency Regnum and a number of other Russian mass media. This criminal case has also “stirred high public interest with the minimum of official information about the course of investigation”.