Belarus4 November 2005
A Polish journalist again threatened with prosecution
A Polish-language journalist in Belarus, Andrzej Pisalnik, has been threatened with legal action for supposedly affronting Belarusian citizens.
An official of the public prosecutor’s office in Grodno’s Leninski district handed a formal caution to Pisalnik at his home on 2 November for “affronting the national honour” and also “the dignity” of Belarusian citizens and Josef Lucznik, representative of the Union of Poles in Belarus, in an article headed “Lukashenko’s Poles” in the Polish-language Belarusian weekly Glos znad Niemna on 22 September.
Pisalnik had accused the authorities of stage-managing a meeting of the Union of Poles to ensure Lucznik, who is very close to the government, was elected as leader.
If he wrote another such article, the journalist would be prosecuted under article 130 (1) of the criminal code, which provides for a fine or up to five years imprisonment for “affronting national honour and dignity.”
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Harassment of Polish journalists and media continues
27 october 2005
Andrei Pochobut, editor of Magazyn Polski, was arrested in the northwestern city of Grodno, near the Polish border, on 20 October. He was freed a few hours later and forbidden to leave Belarus.
“For the umpteenth time, the Polish-language media are at the heart of the political crisis between Poland and Belarus,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “17 journalists from the country’s Polish minority have been arrested in the past three months. The media must not be made to pay for this political crisis,” it said.
Pochobut was questioned at the city’s Leninski police station about the latest issues of the weekly Polish-language magazine Glos znad Niemna and police sought to check it was being legally published. He was then taken to nearby Shchuchyn and questioned about a criminal matter. He refused to sign a promise not to leave the region.
The state-controlled cable network provider Garant, in the Grodno area, cut off access to the very popular Polish TV station TVP1, one of Poland’s main public stations, on 24 October, on orders from the information minister.
This happened a few weeks after the station decided to put out a new half-hour weekly programme called Belarus Today and opened an office in Grodno to produce regular programmes, local journalist Andrzej Pisalnik told Reporters Without Borders.
“The authorities have moved quickly against press freedom to stop people in Grodno from getting non-censored news,” Pochobut said.
TVP1 journalist Agnieszka Romaszewska was arrested on 27 July when she arrived in Shchuchyn. Police claimed she did not have the required Belarusian foreign ministry accreditation.
Political tension between Belarus and Poland increased during the summer when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the United States, with help from Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania, of trying to overthrow his regime. Polish and Belarusian diplomats were then expelled from each other’s countries.