Belsat journalists to pay big fine for story about injustice

June 12, 2019. Journalist Alyona Shabunya and cameraman Vyachaslau Lazareu in the Vitsebsk Regional Court. Photo – Belsat

On June 12, in the Vitsebsk Regional Court heard the cassation appeals of journalist Alena Shabunya and cameraman Vyachaslau Lazarau. The judge upheld the sentence of the Navapolatsk Court.

On May 15, our authors were accused of violating the law on mass media and ordered to be charged 637.5 BYN each.

The reason for the case was a video about the accident at the Palymir plant that took place in 2016. The story was released on March 22 of this year.

The story told about a worker Andrei Shvilpo who saved his life and lives of many colleagues during a fire. However, the company management considered the employee guilty and sued him. Last year, the court decided to recover material losses from Andrei which is very difficult for him.

Andrei Shvilpo and other employees of Palymir were witnesses at the trial. They were outraged by the fact that journalists were fined for showing the truth.

During the preparation of the administrative case, Vyachaslau Lazarau was not even questioned; the case participants were not presented with any protocols regarding the offense, and they were told about the hearing less than two days prior.

The defendants did not have the opportunity to prepare for their defense.

The case of “Belsat” journalists will be considered by the UN

It is the second time that Shabunya and Lazarau are on trial for making stories for Belsat. They were first convicted of “illegally manufacturing and distributing media products” in March 2018. Then the judge of the Vitsebsk district court decided to fine Alena Shabunya 20 basic units, and Vyachaslau Lazarau — 22 basic units. The journalists tried to appeal the decision of the district court at the Vitsebsk regional court, but the judge Ivanova rejected the appeals.

Journalists do not agree with the prosecution and will appeal the verdict in the higher resort courts.

Journalists appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee, their complaints are pending.

Krystsina Avakumava,