Picks of the Week
Belarusian authorities continue to persecute journalists working with foreign media, in particular the Poland-based Belsat TV channel. Formal grounds for heavy fines is absence of accreditation.
On June 4, reporter Kanstatsin Zhukouski was fined 1,225 rubles in Homieĺ for shooting a story about industrial pollution in the region. This is his sixth penalty in 2018.
“We need to bring to justice those who brought villages to ecological disaster, not the one who tells about this,” Zhukouski said in the courtroom.
According to Reporters Without Borders, 94% of Belarusian journalists who are subject to persecution are Belsat contributors. Since the beginning of the year, they faced more than 30 lawsuits.
Extreme cases of harassment include arrests and abuse of violence by police officers.
On June 7, Belsat journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva was arrested when covering a protest against the opening of a restaurant near the Kurapaty memorial forest in Minsk.
The journalist was grabbed by a plainclothes police officer and thrown into a car. She was then brought to the police station and charged with an administrative offense. According to the reporter, she was forced to strip to her underwear by police.
On the bright side, Belsat reporter Dzmitry Lupach was acquitted of a similar offense, after a court in Dokšycy, Viciebsk region, found him not guilty of illegally making a media report.
LGBT-rights activist Vika Biran will stand three trials after she staged pickets in front of the Government House, the Interior Ministry and the KGB building. She was holding a poster reading “You Yourselves Are Fake”, as a response to the Interior Ministry’s homophobic statement, which called the LGBT community “fake”.
“The Interior Ministry said: ‘LGBT community and all this struggle for ‘their rights’ and the community day itself (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, May 17) are just a fake!’. And I say: ‘You yourselves are fake! Your public homophobia, your sustainable development goals, your UN membership, your respect for human rights — it’s all fake,” Vika Biran commented on her protest.
On June 6, the Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk refused to hear one of the lawsuits against the activist, after it found the police report inaccurate.
Piotr Markelau, an activist of a marijuana legalization campaign, spent 74 hours in pre-trial detention for allegedly protesting against the blocking of the campaign’s website. The key evidence in the case was a photo of Markelau’s displaying a poster saying “Block 188.8.131.52” (IP address of the Interior Ministry’s website). During the trial, however, it appeared that the image was Photoshopped and the protest never took place in reality.