26 April 2019, Friday, 15:43
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Volha Chaichyts: Independent Media Make Officials Do Something For People

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ALES BARAZENKA, HANNA AZEMSHA, VOLHA CHAICHYTS, ANDRUS KOZEL

The situation in the country is changing.

Dziarzhynsk district court has found journalist Volha Chajchyts and Andrus Kozel guilty of violation of mass media law (Art. 22.9 of the Administrative Code) and imposed a fine of Bn 857.5 on each. This refers to the January news piece about Fanipal residents who had to wait for being given the keys to their finished apartments for nearly six months. The situation changed right after the material was shown on Belsat TV.

“After the story was aired, officials began to solve the problem. That is exacly the thing that helps us to carry on. We are tried for our news stories, we are tried for our making officials do something for citizens. But the situation in the country, at least at the local level, is changing,” - Volha Chajchyts believes.

The dwellers of #2 residential building in Zialionaya Street waited for the keys from their finished apartment for half a year. After the news item by Volha Chaichyts and Andrus Kozel was aired, it turned out it was possible to solve the issue in several days.

Just a few hours later, the reporters learned that another protocol had been made upon them under notorious article 22.9 - illegal distribution of media products. The authorities must have disliked Chajchyts’ and Kozel’ covering the protest of persons with sight disability in Minsk against the construction of a high-tower in Yakubouski Street:

Moreover, on March 7, Andrus Kozel will have to appear before court for allegedly disobeying to the police (Art. 23.4). As reported earlier, Andrus Kozel was severely beaten by police while observing the election process at one of Minsk polling stations on February 18. The policemen broke the glass in the door to the polling station with Andrus’ head when they were detaining him. Our colleague was an observer at the elections and streamed everything live on his private Facebook account.

In 2017, freelance journalists Volha Chajchyts and Andrus Kozel paid 8,556 Belarusian rubles to the state budget. The crew was repeatedly fined for contribution to Belsat TV. This is the third fine for Volha and the second one for Andrus this year. In February, they were fined 35 base fees each by the Lida district court.

The TV-channel's journalists were fined for more than Bn 50 K for the last year in total. This year, according to the statistical data provided by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the amount of fines is reaching Bn 7 K.