Independant journalist Alena Stsiapanava to stand trial for work without accreditation

Alena Stsiapanava, member of Belarusian association of journaliste (BAJ) from Vitebsk, is accused of work for foreign mass media without accreditation.

On July 9 the journalist came to the Kastrychnitski district police department of Vitebsk, together with her lawyer, where she was shown an administrative protocol against her, complied by the senior inspector of protecting law and order and crime prevention Siarhei Viaraksa.

The police accuse the journalist of contributing to the foreign mass media Radio Svaboda without accreditation, a violation according to article 22.9 of the Administrative Code.

The case materials provide such evidence as, for instance: policemen saw how I attended trials over activists and wrote down something in my notepad,” said Alena Stsiapanava. “Or someone saw how I was talking on the phone and telling some unidentified people about the course of events.” Based on this, they have made a conclusion that I work with the Radio Svaboda.

The journalist refused to give any explanations, referring to article 27 of the Constitution (the right not to testify against oneself).

In August last year Alena Stsiapanava received a warning from the regional prosecutor’s office for contributing to the “Czech editorial office of the Radio Svaboda”. Although such mass medium does not exist, she failed to overturn the sanction.

The case will be heard on July 12, in the Kastrychitski district court of Vitebsk, at 3 pm. She faces a fine of 20 to 50 basic amounts.

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We remind that in January 2013 BAJ suggested several amendments to the law on Mass Media to be considered at the Permanent committee on human rights, national relations and mass media of the House of Representatives. One of the suggestions concerned the accreditation which is acquired today as permission.

“We deem accreditation for journalists of foreign mass media as an obvious violation of the law on mass media and international legal obligations of Belarus,” explained then Andrei Bastunets the position of BAJ. “We suggest that the ban for journalists to work without accreditation must be eliminated from the law. In our view, accreditation can be applied only when the media interest exceeds the possibility to accommodate all journalists, i.e. when there is not enough room to let everybody in and the like. Only here it is sensible. Accreditation must not be a permit for journalistic activities.”

Then MPs declined the suggestions, referring to the opinion of the Ministry of Information that it was inexpedient to introduce any amendments to the law.

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