The price of freedom of speech

On December 2, 2014 a freelance journalist Andrei Myaleshka from Grodno was fined for illegal journalistic activities. Now, according to the decision of the judge Yuri Kazakevich, Myaleshka has to pay the government 6 million rubles (about 450 Euros).

This is the third fine this year that Myaleshka has to pay to the state budget. Each time the cause of the proceeding against him was the same – the illegal exercise of journalism in Belarus, namely preparing materials for “Radio Razyja” which broadcasts to Belarus from Poland.

The case of Myaleshka was the latest in the peculiar wave of court proceedings and penalties, which have strangely hit independent Belarusian journalists working for media which are not registered in Belarus.

In this way, just in the current year, on the grounds of the same charges the fines have been administered to: Maryna Malchanava (Bobruisk), Yauhen Skrabiets,  Alina Lytvynchuk (Brest), Nikalai Benko, Julia Siviets (Gomel), Ales Burakou, Mikhas Arshinsky (Mogilev), Ales Dzianisau, Ales Zaleuski (Grodno region).

Tamara Shchepetkina (town of Beryoza, Brest region) is awaiting trial for the similar charges.

Journalists Maxim Khlebets and Alyona Stepanava have already received a warning from the prosecutor’s office.

Of course, one cannot say journalists did not try to solve this problem. Thus, a journalist from  “Radio Razyja” Viktar Parfianenka has already tried to obtain accreditation from Belarusian MFA seven times, however, in vain.

The independent media “Radio Razyja” and TV channel “Belsat” have been seeking official accreditation of their journalists in Belarus for many years, but they constantly receive refusals from Belarusian MFA.

Also, “thanks” to the peculiarities of Belarusian legislation even the consent of Minsk officials to register “Razyja” and “Belsat” potentially do not guarantee anything to the journalists, since they have to undergo individual registration at the MFA.

“Legal” media also can not feel safe. Thus, the correspondent point of “European Radio for Belarus” accredited by MFA during the last 5 years, got the new accreditation in November of the current year at the last minute and only for one more year.