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Police beat civil society activists and the journalist recording the incident

Journalist Pavel Dabravolski
Journalist Pavel Dabravolski

BAJ/EFJ

This statement was originally published on baj.by on 26 January 2016.

On January 26, the Board of BAJ made a statement concerning the beating of Pavel Dabravolski, journalist for TUT.by, in the Frunzenski district court building of Minsk:

The Belarusian Association of Journalists is outraged by the fact that a member of our association, journalist Pavel Dabravolski was beaten in the court building while performing professional duties. Such barbaric actions discredit Belarusian authorities. We demand an investigation into the beating of the journalist, and to bring those guilty to justice.

On January 25, in the building of Frunzenski district court of Minsk, police and special forces employees brutally beat two civil activists, who were forcefully taken out of the court room where a hearing was held, and Pavel Dabravolski – a journalist for TUT.BY – who had attempted to record the incident with a cell phone video camera.

The actions of the law enforcement agency representatives are a grave violation of the journalist's rights, punishable according to art. 198 of the Criminal Code (obstructing lawful professional activities of a journalist).

The fact that official representatives beat the journalist in a public place – a place which is an embodiment of law and justice – is scandalous and outraging. The absurdity was multiplied by a subsequent trial in the same very building: the journalist was held liable under art. 24.1 (contempt of court) and art. 23.4 (disobeying lawful demands of officials), and was fined for 45 basic amounts (9 450 000 rubles).

The scandalous incident discredits efforts by the Belarusian state that officially ratified international treaties on protection of free speech and human rights.

BAJ demands an investigation to identify the persons involved in the beating and to hold them liable under the Criminal Code of Belarus.

The Board of BAJ, January 26, 2016.

Meanwhile, the official comment from the chief police department of Minsk says that the journalist entered the staff-only room, where the offenders were placed, obstructed legitimate actions by law enforcement officials, and did not react to their demands to stop his unlawful actions.

“According to the Law on the Internal Affairs Bodies, physical force was used to stop unlawful actions. The chief police department of the Minsk City Executive Committee assigned an official inquiry into the fact.”

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