What can be photographed in Belarus?

The Ministry of the Internal Affairs of Belarus suddenly got interested in amateur photographers. Thus, according to the order of the Deputy Minister Myalnichenka of 25/02/2015, police officers have been ordered to pay special attention to anyone who takes pictures of the official buildings. Then each such person should be detained and taken to the police station where the equipment will be checked. Within 3 hours the information about the “incident” should be transmitted directly to the management.

According to the police, the measure is aimed solely at ensuring security in the country and prevent possible threats of a different nature: from provocation to terrorist acts.

The reason for the order was the detention of a Russian citizen Kolesnichenko on February 23rd, which took place in the city of Gomel region – Loeu. He was taking pictures of the local police station and military enlistment office with a professional camera. As it later turned out Kolesnichenko had taken pictures of almost all the buildings of public administration in the city, including the train station. Kolesnichenko was questioned by the local KGB and police authorities for the whole day, and then, as it often happens, he was sentenced to 10 days of imprisonment for allegedly using foul language in a public place.

It is hard not to notice the swiftness of the decision-making. Just in one day the information from a remote district had been processed and the decision was taken on the level of a deputy minister. According to some commentators, the activity of the Ministry can be explained by the latest “trend” of the Belarusian security forces towards a preventive struggle with any possible threats from “little green men”. As a result, the relevant amendments to the law on military positions have been adopted and additional inspections of reserve armed forces took place.

However, so far, mainly Belarusians themselves have been suffering from increased vigilance of the police. Already on February 26th, photographer Dzmitry Lasko was detained while taking pictures of the new backlight of the Academy of Sciences building. Then there was a number of similar detentions of tourists and journalists, which, naturally, caused media curiosity. As a result, the Ministry of the Interior was forced to explain the behavior of its employees and to confirm the existence of the order.

The public opinion on illegal detentions has been divided. Some people think that given the events in the Ukraine the measure is justified. Similar buildings were captured by trained pro-Russian groups in the east of the Ukraine at the beginning of the Donbass crisis.

On the other hand, according to human rights defenders, both the ban on taking pictures of the buildings, and the detention of citizens on this basis is illegal.

“Any ban, as well as other restrictions of rights and freedoms of citizens, must be secured in a legislative act that has legal force and is applicable on a particular range of subjects. This kind of prohibition can only be set to achieve well-defined goals: protection of national security, public order, morality, health, rights and freedoms of others “- said Pavel Sapelka, a former lawyer, who was defending politically repressed in the court a number of times.

So far, it is more convenient for the Belarusian state to respond to threats in the form of internal documents of the ministry, which actually become mandatory for the ordinary citizens without a legitimate reason.