More and more freelance journalists are being prosecuted in Belarus
Reporters Without Borders condemns a mounting campaign of harassment and intimidation of Belarusian journalists working for foreign media. It consists of raids, warnings and fines and could escalate still further in the run-up to next year's presidential election.
Since 2009, journalists working for media based abroad are supposed to be accredited with the foreign ministry but the ministry systematically rejects all accreditation requests, forcing them to work illegally and exposing them to prosecution on a charge of “illegal production of media content” under article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences.
In one of the later cases, the police notified Ales Zaleuski on 13 November that he would be prosecuted for doing a report on corruption for Warsaw-based Belsat TV. He was already fined 4.5 million roubles (330 euros) last May on a similar charge.
Two policemen went to Andrey Myaleshka's home in the western city of Hrodna on 13 November to question him about an interview he did in October for Radio Racyja, a radio station based in Poland. They told him he would be charged with producing media content illegally because he had worked without accreditation.
This will be Myaleshka's third prosecution in the past six months. He was fined 4.5 million roubles (330 euros) in June and 5.25 million roubles (395 euros) in October on similar charges.
He told Reporters Without Borders that nothing would stop him from working. “But the judicial proceedings, appeals and paper work take up a lot of time and are distracting, while many sources now think twice about talking to me,” he said, adding that he was under close surveillance.
Ales Burakou, a journalist based in the eastern city of Mahilyou, was questioned by tax inspectors on 13 November about his earnings from foreign sources from 2010 to 2013. He called it a new form of harassment, saying he already filed all the required tax declarations. He was fined 6 million roubles (445 euros) on 8 October for an article for German public radio Deutsche Welle's website.
Belsat TV contributors Maryna Malshanava and Alyaksandr Dzianisau were also fined in September and April, respectively. No fewer than six other journalists have received warnings this year for working without accreditation.
On 23 October, the government formally rejected an appeal filed in September by the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ), a Reporters Without Borders partner, calling on it to stop persecuting independent journalists and to bring the country's media laws into line with the international treaties ratified by Belarus.