‘Using bad language’: Belsat TV journalist sentenced to 15 days in jail

Belsat TV cameraman and journalist Ales Barazenka is standing trial in Maskouski district court in Minsk. He is accused of ‘disorderly conduct’ (Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code.

(UPD) Judge Tatsyana Matyl has sentenced our colleague to 15 days in prison. He is about to continue hunger-striking in protest.

Ales was arrested during the live broadcast from Saturday’s non-parasite march and Freedom Day celebration in Minsk. it is noteworthy that on Sunday Belarusians came to Kastrychnitskaya Square to show solidarity with the detained and beaten.

“The police did not use force when detaining me, but I did not resist. [Minsk police spokesman] Lastouski decided to release all journalists but me. I will be tried for ‘flapping arms and swearing. I will seek to watch the video in court – it shows the way I was behaving. I apologize to the audience that I failed to finish livestreaming,” says Barazenka.

According to OMON policeman Mikhail Varyvonchyk who is giving testimony in court Ales Barazenka was shouting, waving his hands, using bad language. Varyvonchyk claims they warned the defendant against such actions, but he kept doing so and failed to inform them of his being journalist. Interestingly, he says they detained Barazenka ‘not far from the Academy of Sciences in Kazlou Street’, but all Minsk residents know that Kazlou street does not adjoin the Academy; there are two metro stations between them. Witness Varyvonchyk must be one of those OMON policemen who were drawn to the city before the crackdown on protests on March, 25.

Riot policeman Varyvonchyk witnessing

Another witness, policeman Artsyom Mikhalevich, also says that Barazenka was swearing, flapping his hands and criticizing presidential decree Nr 3 in Kazlou street in Minsk. Belsat TV journalist has asked the both to specify what obscenities he used; Mikhalevich and Varyvonchyk refused to pronounce the words, but agreed to put them down on the paper. Barazenka wants the sheet to be added to the case file.

In the video below, one hears Barazenka saying ‘I am a journalist! I am a journalist!’ when the police were arresting him. No strong language is used. There is a rhetoric question: do the Belarusian authorities consider these words profanity?

Ales Barazenka doubts that the policemen witnessing in court arrested him at the rally: the both cannot name any features of the detainee except for his beard. Moreover, they state Barazenka did not have any things on him at that moment. But the journalist was carrying a sack and equipment, which is seen in numerous photos and videos.

When arrested on March 25, Ales Barazenka got in touch with our colleagues in the studio. Our cameraman tried to start a live stream from the paddy wagon, but due to the disruption of the 3G and 4G network it lasted for a short time.

The pressure on Belsat TV journalists and contributors has been ramped up lately. 26 incidents of harassment have been recorded since March 12: our reporters were arrested, threatened with murder, beaten, fined, barred from performing their professional duties.