Maximum Fine to Journalists in Homel

On June 9 and June 10, the Central district court of Minsk considered administrative cases of cameraman Kastus Zhukouski and journalist Natallia Kryvashei.

The case under art. 22.9 (illegal production and distribution of mass media products) was initiated by the local police on the basis of a video report “Teacher’s suicide” broadcast on April 15 in the program Objective of Belsat. On June 9, Kastus Zhukouski was fined for 5.4 million rubles. On June 10 Natallia Kryvashei was fined 9 million Belarusian rubles – this is the maximum penalty envisaged by this article and is imposed for the first time.

In the case of Natallia Kryvashei, the judge dismissed the motions to hear the witness (her colleague Zhukouski) and summon to court for explanation sub-colonel Yury Panin who had drawn up the administrative report. The judge also dismissed the motion to address the request for clarifications to law makers: what is meant exactly by the “production of mass media products”. We remind that the main argument of BAJ lawyers is that the responsibility under art. 22.9 lies on legal entities which can produce and distribute the final product; journalists act as individuals who gather and process information, by the way, exercising their right to gather, store and disseminate information which is guaranteed by art. 34 of the Constitution of Belarus.

This is already the third fine imposed on Natallia Kryvashei, the total sum of the fines makes 18 million rubles, which is over 1000 euros and equals to approx. three average monthly salaries across the country.

Kastus Zhukouski has been fined 6 times this year; the total sum of the fines is 25 million Belarusian rubles, or around 1 425 euros, and is more than four average monthly salaries.

Natallia Kryvashei thinks that she received the largest fine because the judge was angry with her: “I three times challenged the judge and her professional competence,” she said, the challenges were rejected.

There have been 21 fines already to journalists from the regions of Belarus whose reports appear on Belsat and the Radio Racyja. The two outlets broadcast from Poland, providing information aimed largely at Belarusian audiences. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuses accreditation to these outlets. The articles that become basis of the cases are mostly politically neutral and deal with daily life of society, economic, social, cultural issues. The total sum of fines for these “illegal products” is already 108 million rubles (over 6 thousand euro).


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