New wave of persecuting independent journalists

Groundless checks, controlling, police harassment, trials and fines seem to have become a dime a dozen in the life of Homiel-based Belsat TV contributor Kastus Zhukouski.

It would look as if no one freelance journalist in the country paid so many fines to the state budget as Zhukouski. Kastus makes public the issues of villagers and the unemployed, covers the squandering of public money and abusive practices. That is why the Belarusian authorities are not slow to punish the journalist telling the truth.

On Thursday the Belarusian customs office imposed maximum possible fine on Zhukouski (BYN 1,150) for a photo taken in late April at the checkpoint Novaya Huta. At that moment, Kastus was accompanying the parents of Belarusian-born Euromaidan defender Mikhail Zhyzneuski.

“I was punished not for photographing the border, but for my revealing the fact of insulting the parents of the Hero of Ukraine,” Zhukouski believes.

The Belarusian authorities are also trying to accuse Uladzimir Laptsevich, a correspondent of the news agency BelaPAN and the weekly Niva, of illegal production and distribution of media products and the lack of accreditation.

Mahiliou-based journalist Alina Skrabunova is facing the same charges for contributing to Belsat. According to human rights activists, the authorities are trying to muzzle the voice of free press.

“Article 22/9 of the Administrative Code has nothing to do with journalists! Firstly, they do not produce media products. As for Uladzimir Laptsevich, he is a freelance correspondent. Only full-time journalists need accreditation. This is an obvious violation of the law,” human rights defender Barys Bukhel says.

As the journalists were summoned, they will have to appear at police stations next week.