127 days behind bars, $125K fines: 10 years of Belsat TV work in Belarus

On 10 December 2007, Belsat TV started broadcasting for Belarus via satellite. Since then, the regime has been treating us like enemies. Even before the launch of the channel, Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka called it a ‘stupid, lousy and unfriendly’ project.

The pressure on the channel started immediately after the start of broadcasting. In 2008, the prosecutor’s office and the KGB began to summon our contributors for questioning. The authorities also unleashed a campaign to dismantle satellite dishes saying that they spoil the appearance of buildings.

In 2009, Belsat TV director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy was going to take part in the celebration of the channel’s anniversary in Minsk, but she was denied a Belarusian visa. By the way, the birthday party did not happen either. At the eleventh hour, the Graffiti club, where the event was to be held, informed us of the failure in the power supply.

During the fledging years of the TV station, its journalists and contributors often received prosecutors’ warnings against cooperation with non-accredited foreign media.

Belsat TV has repeatedly filed all necessary documents to get accreditation and permission for opening an office in Belarus, but the Foreign Ministry has turned down our requests four times. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat because the journalists working for the TV station … break the law.

Thus, the circle closes: journalists are denied accreditation because they break the law and they break the law, because they work without accreditation that they seek… And it explains the existence of absurdist Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If you have accreditation, you are allowed be a journalist. If you do not have it – you are outlawed.

*Green line- detentions; red – fines; yellow – days behind bars; blue – warnings; lilac – cases of violence

In 2010, it was the first time when the police searched the flat where Belsat TV contributors were working; an unprecedented wave of arrests started. On December 19, 2010, after the post-election protests, 27 independent journalists were detained.

Plainclothes policemen detaining Belsat TV contributor in 2011. Photo: Reuters

The period of 2012-2014 was not so shady – the scale of persecution and harrassment got down a bit, but the authorities kept exerting pressure on the channel. Andrey Belyakou, the owner of BELSATplus company, sued Belsat TV for allegedly violating the interests of his business. The businessman appealed to the Supreme Court of Belarus, but it did not satisfy his demands. Then BELSATplus company owner tried to ban our channel from using the Belsat TV trademark. But the Supreme Court dismissed the claims. Re-examination of the case was initiated by the Presidium of the Supreme Court, and the case was heard by another panel of judges. On September 4, 2014, the court granted the appeal of Belyakou and banned our channel from using the Belsat TV trademark for broadcasts in the territory of Belarus and on the web page.



*75 cases of detaining Belsat Tv contributors during performing professional duties; 125 days behind bars; $27,290 – total amount of fines imposed; 10 cases of violence, 8 raids and searches; 4 Belsat TV attempts to get accreditation in Belarus.

The case became history, but in 2017, when the spring wave of protests died down, it was suddenly remembered: on March 31, our offices in Minsk were raided, computers and other equipment were seized:

Belsat TV office after raid and seizure, 31 March 2017

Over the past two years, the authorities have been regularly detaining jornalists who perform their professional duties for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. They are stopped on their way to the scene, held in police stations and then heavily fined.

In 2017, Belsat TV contributors have paid 31 fines of 35 imposed on independent journalists under Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code (illegal production and distribution of media products).

Minsk takes the lead in the number of detentions (37); Homiel region can ‘boast’ of the greatest number of fines imposed on journalists over the last three years. 17 of them went to Belsat TV contributor Kastus Zhukouski.

During ten years of the channel’s existence, we faced about 10 cases of violence towards our contributors (beating or ill-treatment in the cours of detention).

In 2010, our reporters spent a month in hospital after being battered in the stairwell.

It is hard to specify how many times the police seized equipment from our journalists and then give it back, but all materials were deleted from memory cards. Moreover, in some cases, they kept Belsat TV property – our computers, cameras, pendrives are still hidden in the Interior Ministry’s boxes. There is evidence that MIA employees use our cameras when filming participants of protest rallies in Belarus.

But we are not going to give up. Stay tuned!

Восень: уладкуйцеся перад экранам і глядзіце «Белсат»!

Паглядзіце, зацаніце 🙂 Дзесяты і юбілейны сезон на "Белсаце": больш прамых эфіраў, онлайн трансляцыі, новыя праграмы, фільмы і серыялы. Гэта будзе круты год! Заставайцеся з намі!Больш пра гэта: http://belsat.eu/news/vosen-uladkujtsesya-perad-ekranam-i-glyadzitse-belsat-novyya-pragramy-filmy-i-seryyaly/

Opublikowany przez Белсат TV Wtorek, 5 września 2017

Veranika Uladzimirava/MS, belsat.eu, source: Baj.by, Belsat.eu