Losing count: Belsat TV contributor heavily fined again

Savetski district court has imposed BYN 920 fine ($490) on Homiel-based freelance journalist Yauhen Merkis for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’.

In March, Merkis was livestreaming near the detention center in Homiel. On that day, the well-known Belarusian blogger Maksim Filipovich was to be released after spending days in the centre, but in vain: in prison he was sentenced to another term. Later, the live stream appeared on Belsat TV Facebook.

According to the journalist, judge Shain was not slow to deliver a sentence.

“Thus, the total amount of fines I have got during this spring reached 2,645 Belarusian rubles (appr. $1,400). But they will not stop us. Show must go on!” Yauhen said on Facebook.

On Tuesday, our colleague was BYN 115 fined for ‘hooliganism’ after being preventively detained in the run-up of a protest rally on May Day. According to policemen who were witnessing in court, Merkis ‘was swearing and talking to himself.’

On April 19, he was BYN 920 fined (nearly $500). The journalist was tried over two cases of the so-called ‘illegal production of media products’. In particular, Merkis covered a ‘non-parasite’ rally in Pinsk and interviewed MP Ihar Marzalyuk during the protests in Mahiliou.

On March 23, Homiel court fined Yauhen Merkis for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’, i.e. for covering the march of ‘non-parasites’ in Rahachou. He livestreamed protest rallies in Vitsebsk and Homiel as well.

Although Belsat TV is located in Poland, many journalists and contributors work in Belarus. As the Belarusian Foreign Ministery has repeatedly denied registration to the TV station for political reasons, its contributors are at the authorities’ gunpoint for working without it.

In February-March, there has been an eruption of protesting the so-called ‘parasite’ law in Belarus. Hundreds of Belarusians were detained, fined, jailed after recent non-parasite marches. Most of them were accused of violating the order of holding mass events and disobedience to police officers’ demands. It should be noted that plainclothes policemen who refuse to show their IDs a or introduce themselves often beat people and prevented journalists from performing their professional duties.