Mass Media News - 28.01.2008
Ministry of Information in 2007 - 86 Warnings Issued, 3 Media Outlets Suspended
In 2007 the Belarusian Ministry of Statistics issued 86 written warnings to 76 various media outlets. The activity of three of them was suspended for the term of three months. These numbers were voiced on January, 25 by the Minister of Information Uladzimir Rusakevich at the Ministry staff meeting, reports newspaper "Zviazda".  The BAJ press-service cleared up what were the reasons for suspending the media.
The head of Media Registration and Control over the Implementation of Laws Section Viktar Huretski informed the BAJ that three non-governmental newspapers were suspended in the course of the year, namely "Nedelia v Molodechno", "Stolichnye Kvartiry" and "Fitness and life". According to Mr. Huretski, all of them have continually violated article 11 of the "Law on Press and Other Media" (altering the periodicity, language, legal address etc.), while "Fitness and life" also violated article 30 of the law by breaching the advertising limits.
Out of the three periodicals only "Nedelia v Molodechno" covers social-political issues. Even before the suspension it experienced difficulties with publishing. According to the founder and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Dzmitry Harytonau, he has continued publishing "Nedelia v Molodechno" after the suspension and has retained the registration certificate of the Ministry of Information.

Journalists Denied Information

On January, 24 Anatol Mazhou, the head of the Information Section of a non-governmental social-political newspaper "Borisovskie Novosti" and the member of the BAJ Council, was not allowed to an expanded sitting of Barysau regional executive committee and the regional Council of Deputies.

According to Mr. Mazhou, the first one to order him out was deputy head of the ideological department of the executive committee Natallia Zheka. Mr. Mazhou reminded the official that, as a journalist, he possessed the right to cover socially significant events, all the more that the journalists of state-owned media were present at the session.

Shortly after that the journalist was approached by the head of the ideological department Liudmila Harnak accompanied by two militiamen. She stated that the journalist "was not invited at the event" and ordered him to leave the premises.
Working under such conditions is routine for the journalists of the Barysau independent newspaper, which in 2007celebrated its 15th anniversary.
On January, 25 2008 the correspondent of "Borisovskie Novosti" Alena Brytskaja was not allowed to the regional parents´ gathering which was taking place in the Barysau Palace of Culture.

January 1- 20, 2008

  • n "Belsayuzdruk" Refused to Cooperate with the "Niasvizhski Chas" Weekly
  • n A "Nasha Niva" Free-lance Correspondent Sentenced to 15 Days of Arrest after Individual Entrepreneurs´ Protest Action
  • n Former Deputy Editor-in-Chief of "Zhoda" Sentenced to 3 Years of Prison Colony for Reprinting Caricatures on Mohammed the Prophet
It became known on January 3, 2008 that the "Muzykalnaya Gazeta" non-state weekly terminated its paper version publishing, because of economic hardships, artificially created by the "Belsayuzdruk" state monopolist press distributor. "The newspaper will carry on its work in the Internet", the "Muzykalnaya Gazeta" Editor-in-Chief Aleh Klimau told.

General and an MP Mikalai Charhinets doesn´t exclude that he may sue the media outlets that cited the arguable article «General-Senator Mikalai Charhinets» by Alaksandr Tamkovich in their publications. He made the statement during his press-conference on January 3, 2008. 

M. Charhinets showed a large pile of printouts from the Internet and copies of publications, where journalists cited different parts of the article. The politician believes some statements in the press, related to the claim, may deserve separate trials. However, reportedly, he hasn´t addressed to the court yet and made up his mind to keep and eye on the press in the meantime. 

It should be reminded that the Piershamayski City District Court of Minsk decided to exact 50 million Belarusian rubles from the «Novy Chas» weekly publisher and 1 million Belarusian rubles from the author of the arbitrary publication Alaksandar Tamkovich as moral damages to Mikalai Charhinets.

It became known on January 6, 2008 that the Head of Niasvizh Department of "Minskablsayuzdruk" Tatsiana Navosha refused to continue a distribution agreement with the "Niasvizhski Chas" newspaper publisher for the year of 2008. "Out cooperation has been terminated without any explanations after five years of fruitful cooperation", the "Niasvizhski Chas" Editor-in-Chief Alaksej Biely told.

More than 158 billion Belarusian rubles (around USD 74 million) have been envisaged for financing the state media outlets in the state budget for the year of 2008. This information was officially distributed on January 8, 2008.

The sum includes 121,927,423 thousand Belarusian rubles (around USD 56 million) for funding TV and radio broadcasters, 15,899,505 thousand Belarusian rubles (around USD 7 million) for backing the state-owned periodical press and publishing houses and around 21,154,270 (around USD 10 million) for the coverage of all other possible expenses of state-owned and state-supported media outlets. It should be emphasized that the state subsidies are predominantly directed to the state-owned media as well as to the non-state media, chosen by the Belarus´ Ministry of Information without free and fair selection procedures.

The amount of budget funding of state-owned media outlets in the previous years was as follows:

2007 - around USD 64 million; 2006 - more than USD 60 million; 2005 - around USD 40 million; 2004 - less than USD 30 million.

A correspondent of "Hantsavitski Chas" non-state newspaper Iryna Damaratskaya wasn´t permitted to enter the ceremony of awarding the best pupils and teachers of the district, held in Hantsavichy City Palace of Culture on January 9, 2008. A representative of the District Department on Education told the journalist the event was private. She refused to disclose her name to the media worker.

Starting from the morning of January 10, 2008, a number of Internet-sites that deal with the active coverage of social and political events in Belarus were fully or partially blocked. The visitors couldn´t enter some of them. A number of Web-sites were opening too slowly. Among other, the list of repressed Internet resources included www.charter97.org; Radio Liberty/RFE - www.svaboda.org; Belarusian Partisan - www.belaruspartisan.org; and www.ucpb.org. A highly popular Internet resource www.livejournal.com wasn´t operating either. Most probably, the break was reasoned by the protest action, arranged by individual entrepreneurs on that day.

A free-lance photo correspondent of "Nasha Niva" weekly Arsien Pakhomau got sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest on January 11, 2008. The judge of Central City District of Minsk Leanid Yasinovich found the journalist guilty of two articles of Administrative Code of Belarus at a time - "a minor act of hooliganism" and "participation in an unauthorized action".

The media worker got detained close to the entrance to «Kastrychnitskaya» metro station in Minsk on January 10, 2008. A mass protest action of individual entrepreneurs was taking place in Kastrychnitskaya Square at this very time. 

Arsien Pakhomau explained to the judge in court that he had been sent to cover the event by his newspaper editorial.

On January 12, 2008, journalists Uladzimir and Halina Samoilau and a TV cameraman Valery Buldyk were detained by policemen and people in plain clothes after recording an interview with a specialist in the sphere of entrepreneurship Pavel Daneika, the "Tovarishch" newspaper´s Web-site reports.

The meeting took place in Minsk in Mr. Daneika´s apartment. Having left Mr. Daneika, the journalists tried to catch a taxi but were late. Two people in civil clothes accompanied by a police officer detained them for no good reason. The journalists were brought to the police station where their personal things were searched.

The interrogation last for about three hours. As a result, all the equipment, video cassettes and cameras were seized.

The special service officers were mostly interested in whether the interview with Pavel Daneika was shot for the "Belsat" TV channel.

On January 12, 2008 the regional KGB department officers conducted a search in the flat of a BAJ member Siarhei Padsasonny. The warrant read that "Siarhei Padsasonny being an organizer of „Youth Front" is suspected of drawing schoolchildren and students into the organization with the aim to discredit the country".

The members of Homiel BAJ branch volunteered to be the witnesses during the search, however, the policemen and KGB officers pushed them out of the flat.

The KGB officers seized a hard drive from the journalist´s computer, his video camera and a flash card.

It should be reminded that the unknown KGB officers forced Siarhei Padsasonny from his flat to the local KGB department on November 23, 2007. They intended to hold the so-called "talk" with the journalist. Among other they inquired him about his involvement into the "BelSat" satellite TV channel activity.  

On January 15, 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ, New York) expressed deep concern on account of the administrative arrest of Arsen Pakhomau, a "Nasha Niva" free-lance photo-correspondent as well as a recent detention of three TV journalists - Halina and Uladzimir Samoylau and Valery Buldyka with confiscation of their technical equipment.

On January 15, 2008, Mahileu Branch of Belarusian Association of Journalists sent a letter to the Public Prosecutor for Homiel region with a request to help terminate persecution of their Homiel colleague Siarhei Padsasonny. Nine journalists signed the appeal.

On January 15, 2008, Viktar Valadashchuk, editor-in-chief of a non-state religious publishing "Hazeta Slonimskaja", was summoned to the regional prosecutor´s office of Slonim as the regional Department of Justice had claims to the newspaper.

In particular, regional lawyers were interested in the last year articles from the court written by its journalist Mikola Kananovich. According to the appeal directed to the department of justice, 4 articles on open court sittings were published by the newspaper before court decisions came into force.

Besides, the prosecutor´s office had claims to another three articles mentioning the parties, professional unions and other political organisation which did not pass state registration.

An officer of Slonim prosecutor´s office said that the prosecutor would determine the degree of breaching the Belarusian legislation by the newspaper.

Chavusy Regional Court ruled that the founder of a non-registered regional newspaper "Volny Horad" ("Free Town") Uladzimir Kudrautsou and a journalist Valery Bysau are to disburse jointly 500 thousand Belarusian rubles as moral damages to Tatsiana Iukina, the Editor of "Leninskij Klich" regional newspaper (Krychau). The decision was passed on January 16, 2008, following a claim, submitted by Ms. Iukina, on protection of her honor, dignity and business reputation. Despite being generally satisfied with the court verdict, the respondents are going to appeal against it to a higher court. It should be reminded that T. Iukina believed several issues of "Volny Horad" in 2004 contained negative false information about her personality in "Six Years in the Editorial GULAG" publication by V. Bysau.

Policemen detained a private distributor of non-state periodicals Yauhien Boyka in Mahileu on January 16, 2008. He was convoyed to a police station, where a part of "Nash Mahileu" non-registered small-circulation newspaper print-run was seized from him and a police protocol got composed. The special newspaper issue was fully dedicated to the protest action, held by individual enterpreneurs in Mahileu on January 10, 2008. The policemen promised to pass the confiscated copies of "Nash Mahileu" to the Ideological Department of Mahileu Regional Executive Committee for holding a special expert examination.

The border guards did not let a young journalist and a BAJ member Barys Haretski out of the country. On January 17, 2008 he was forced to leave the train at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. When asked to state the reason for that, the border guards told Barys Haretski that he was on the list of those "temporary not allowed abroad". The young man claims having no debts and not being under criminal investigation.

According to Haretski, he has already paid off the fine applied to him for being a member of a non-registered organisation «Youth Front». Maksim Haretski did not take part in the latest protest actions.

Aliaksandr Zdvizhkou got sentenced to 3 years of high security detention for "fomenting religious dissension" according to Article 130, part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. This decision was taken by the judge of Minsk City Court Ruslan Aniskievich after having finished legal investigation concerning Deputy Editor-in-chief of Zhoda newspaper on January 18, 2008.

The hearings started on January 11, 2008 and at the very beginning were open to the public. However, journalists were asked to leave the court room later on.

Mr. Zdvizhkou refused to recognize himself guilty and would be appealing the decision in the court of the highest instance.

In March 2006 the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus started the criminal persecution of the Deputy Editor-in-chief of Zhoda Aliaksandr Zdvizhkou for having published caricatures on Prophet Muhammad. However, the case was suspended due to the fact that investigating authority did not manage to elucidate the location of the accused. At the beginning of January 2008 it became known that Mr. Zdvizhkou was arrested and put in prison.

More detailed information can be found at the Web-site of Belarusian Association of Journalists: http://www.baj.by/

Hrodna Journalist Is Summoned to Police

28.01.2008

The Editor-in-Chief of the non-governmental journal "Magazyn Polski na
uchodzstwie" Igar Bantsar has been summoned to the Lenin Regional Department of Inner Affairs of Hrodna for witnessing. The reason was not mentioned in the summons, but the journalist is convinced that it is connected with his professional activity. Mr. Bantsar informed BAJ Press Service that he is not going to go to the police.

The Editor-in-Chief of the journal of the Union of Poles in Belarus considers that the summons to the police is connected with his presence at the protest action of Hrodna entrepreneurs on January 21. According to I. Bantsar, policemen behaved themselves rude in relation to journalists, pushed them, not paying attention to press cards, attached to the dress.

An International Conference on Media Situation in Belarus Planned 

January 25, 2008

Most probably, an international conference on the present situation in the Belarusian media field will be held in May 2008. This initiative was discussed during the Sub-committee on Mass Media at the PACE Committee on Culture, Science and Education meeting in Strasbourg on January 24, 2008. Volha Stuzhynskaya, the Head of "Office for a Democratic Belarus" took part in the event and reported on it to the BAJ Press Service. 

The Belarusian civil society representatives, including human rights and NGO activists, taking part in the Conference of International NGOs, were invited to attend and take floor during the discussion on January 24, 2008.  

"We told briefly about the situation with the media in Belarus: about "Novy Chas", Alexander Zdvizhkou etc. On our part, we made a proposal to arrange public hearings on the media situation in Belarus, which would be similar to those, held several years ago. A resolution upon the situation with the Belarusian media was adopted then", V. Stuzhynskaya noted. 

According to V. Stuzhynskaya, the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Miklos Haraszti attended the discussion. The official supported the idea of carrying out the hearings. Reportedly, it was decided that the Sub-committee on Mass Media at the PACE would elaborate an official proposal, concerning the issue. 
"There was delivered a proposal during the conference to consider a new draft law on the media and to invite all interested parties, including the Ministry of Information representatives to take part in the meeting", V. Stuzhynskaya added. 

As for the information about possible opening of the CE Information Centre in Belarus, V. Stuzhynskaya confirmed that "the proposal had been articulated again at the round table discussion."

The Press-Secretary of Belarus´ Foreign Office Andrei Papkou told during a briefing on January 24, 2008 that the possibility of opening the CE Information Centre in Minsk was negotiated. 

The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe Called the Belarusian Authorities to Release A. Zdvizhkou

January 24, 2008 

Participants of the Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe have called upon the Belarusian government to enable existence of independent media outlets in Belarus and to release all political prisoners in the country. The statement is declared in a special resolution on Belarus, adopted in Strasbourg on January 22, 2008. 

The resolution supporters expressed deep concern with "the abrupt worsening of human rights situation in Belarus in 2008." 

According to the resolution, "the authoritarian rule in Belarus has led to the discrimination of the rights of most Belarusians."

Among other, the conference participants appealed to the Belarusian authorities with a demand "to respect freedom of information, including full access to independent information in respect to elections, including exit-polling, and allow activities of independent mass media." 

The whole text of the Resolution can be found here: 
http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Resolution_Belarus_220108.asp#TopOfPage

Press Service of Belarusian Association of Journalists