Are there any threats for sellers and owners of “Belarus Press Photo 2011” album?
On April 17, Yulia Darashkevich received a phone call from the “Book Salon” located in Kalinin Street in Minsk with a request to pick up the rest of the copies of the album they had not sold.
The journalist reported this through her Facebook page.
On April 18, the NGO “Belarusian Association of Journalists” contacted the bookshop to find out that the store was not going to sell any more of these books, despite the fact that at the time the court had not even announced its decision.
No one pressed the store, it was the decision of the owners. “Since such an issue arose, we decided that it would be better this way,” said an employee of the bookshop. “We have a private company, and we are less protected from the authorities’ decisions.”
Are such fears grounded? What does the law say to this?
The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Countering Extremism” has been active since the beginning of 2007. According to Art. 14, a court ruling to deem information products as extremist materials is the basis for its destruction, but only after its entry into force. The decision may be appealed in accordance with the law. A copy of the court decision, which has come into legal effect, is sent to the Ministry of Information to be included in the Republican registry of extremist materials. This list shall be published in the media (that was the case in 2008 with several CDs seized from Mr. A. Burakou at the border).
According to Resolution No. 513 of the Council of Ministers of 23 April 2007, the updating and publication of the national list of extremist materials shall be carried out by the Ministry of Information. On the same day when a copy of the decision is received from the court, the Ministry should include it in the list, and within three days pass it for publication in the newspapers “Respublika”, "Narodnaya Hazeta” and “Zviazda.” Those, in turn, must publish the list within three days after the receipt of information from the Ministry.
Art. 17.11 of the Administrative Code provides for penalties for the “production and (or) distribution, as well as storage for distribution, of extremist materials, if these actions have no elements of a crime.” For individuals this may be a fine of 10 to 50 base units or an administrative arrest, for an individual entrepreneur – a fine of 50 to 100 basic units, for legal entities – a fine of 100 to 500 basic units (in all cases – with the confiscation of the “subject of the administrative offense,” as well as “the instruments and means of committing the said offense”).
“Now there is an opportunity to appeal this decision within 10 days. In the case of the “Belarus Press Photo” albums – to Hrodna Regional Court,” says Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets. “That is, the copies of the album held in the KGB can only be destroyed if no one appeals the decision of the court of first instance, or when Hrodna Regional Court confirms the ruling. Further appealing under the supervisory review procedures (to the Chairman of Hrodna Regional Court and the Supreme Court) is possible, but then the fate of the seized copies of the album is not necessarily affected. The supervisory authority may suspend the execution of the judgment, but also can avoid doing this.”
Distributors of the book can do their business until the court decision comes into force. Only after this the distribution can be considered as an administrative offense.
BAJ: Should those who just bought the album be nervous or those who have it on the shelf at home or in the office?
Andrei Bastunets: Regular owners of the album cannot be afraid in any case – the storage of the album does not entail administrative liability if it is not meant for distributing.
BAJ: What about the photographers and organizers of the contest?
Andrei Bastunets: The trial did not address the question of prosecution of specific individuals, but the issue of recognition of the products “extremist.” The case file, by the way, contains a decision to dismiss a criminal case due to lack of evidence. Thus, the contest organizers and photographers should not fear any threats.