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Ihar Lohvinau: “We still remain a country in which book publishers are put into the debt trap”

2015 2015-01-05T14:19:16+0300 2015-01-05T14:19:16+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Ihar Lohvinau and Andrei Bastunets. Photo by Barys Haretski

Ihar Lohvinau and Andrei Bastunets. Photo by Barys Haretski

January 5 at 3 p.m., the trial of the bookstore "Lohvinau" begins at the Economic Court of Minsk.

In early December, tax inspectors paid a visit to the bookstore "Lohvinau". They sealed the bookstore and took away its documentation for an inspection. Soon the bookstore was unsealed, but a severe punishment was issued: the bookstore was fined almost 1 billion rubles for work without a license of the Ministry of Information.

The amount of the fine is equal to the sub for which books were sold by the bookstore during the year. Now the fine will be exacted from “Lohvinau” through court.

In September 2013 the Ministry of Information deprived the publishing house “Lohvinau” of its license for the release of the album "Press Photo Belarus 2011", which was declared “extremist”. After this, the owner of the publishing house eight times appealed to the Ministry of Information for obtaining a new license, but was denied each time.

Before the trial, Ihar Lohvinau answered questions of a Radio “Liberty” journalist.

- You have received eight license denials from the Ministry of Information. Which of them are the most absurd?

- The official reason for the last one is that I have incorrectly written the zip code. The previous one – for allegedly wrong sum of the tax fee. They waited for a month and didn't accept the documents, then the sum of the fee changed. All these reasons are slight inaccuracies which are usually solved simply and easily, but in our case have turned into a problem.

- Today is the first day of the trial. Do you have any hope that common sense will prevail?

- I really, really hope for a favorable outcome of this trial. Because I have a feeling of unreality of the trial, that all this is not true. In our country, not only you do need to obtain permission to write a book, you also need a permission to publish and print books. And since last year you also need a permit to sell books. I hope that in our society there are still remnants of common sense and people won't have to apply for permission to read books."

- Recently, the chief editor of "Nasha Niva" Andrei Dynko has asked a direct question about the bookstore “Lohvinau” at a meeting of media executives with the Information Minister Liliya Ananich. She answered that she didn't know about this case. Do you believe it?

- Of course, it is hard to believe, since all of the answers came from the Ministry of Information signed by Liliya Ananich, which initially was the first deputy minister, and now is the minister. There were appeals of the public and international organizations concerning the annulment of my license, which were published in the independent media. That's why I don't believe in her unawareness."

- Do you have any ways out of this situation? Have you been looking for any options together with your lawyer?

- First of all, a new enterprise will be working at the “Bookstore Ў” in the coming year. Secondly, the lawyer advised to appeal the refusals of the Ministry of Information to register us as a book distributor, sue the Ministry of Information. It really looks like a mockery, a completely biased attitude towards us."

- If we imagine the worst developments, and the fine of 1 billion rubles is left unchanged, will you pay it?

- I would, perhaps, have paid the fine, but the amount is fantastically huge! And not only for me but also for the wealthy. The money which had been earned from the sale of the books has been given to the owners of the books. We have paid rent and taxes from it. Every month, our expenditures exceed our earnings, though we have been engaged in enlightening activities for five years already. That's why it would be hard to pay this fine not only morally, but also economically.

A few days ago we remembered that it was 498 years since the first Belarusian book had been issued. Nevertheless, we still remain a country in which book publishers are put into the debt trap."

Source: RFE/RL

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