Prison terms for Belsat TV journalists confirmed in appeal hearing
The Minsk City Court has turned down an appeal filed to challenge the court ruling of February 18 that sentenced Katsiaryna Bakhvalava (Andreyeva) and Darya Chultsova, journalists working with the Belsat TV channel, to 2 years’ imprisonment.
The journalists were convicted of covering on a protest held in Minsk on November 15 and sparked by the death of Raman Bandarenka, a 31-year-old artist beaten to death by still unidentified persons believed to be affiliated with the country’s security forces.
Andreyeva and Chultsova allegedly disrupted the work of public transport while reporting live in Belsat’s YouTube channel and were eventually detained after the protest was violently dispersed by the police.
The appeal prepared by the then lawyer of Katsiaryna Bakhavalava, Siarhei Zikratski (the counsel was disbarred after the trial for critical comments online), stressed that the court had failed to establish any incriminating evidence.
In his opinion, the judge was unable to prove the existence of group actions that grossly violated public order. Zikratski also referred to international treaties, according to which citizens had every right to participate in a peaceful assembly and go out onto the roadway, while the state was supposed to ensure their safety.
The verdict is based on the subjective opinion of the court, the lawyer said.
“Bakhvalava’s covering on the arrests is the work of a journalist, and reporting such information is not prohibited or limited,” he emphasized.