Two journalists fined for taking photos with a plush toy
Yulia Darashkevich, the same as Iryna Kozlik, was fined 30 base amounts (3 mln Br, or around 300 euro) for unsanctioned picketing – taking photos with a plush toy.
The guards at the entrance to the court did not allow the public to come in, referring to some order of the administration. However, several people who had managed to slip into the court building earlier were able to attend the court hearing, which means that in fact the trial was open, and the guards’ actions at the entrance were against the law.
According to a charge sheet, at the photo session Iryna Kozlik was holding a sign "Belarus has grave problems with freedom of expression. Will Lukashenka really imprison the teddy bears?"
The policeman Sukhaliot from special forces said that the detainees had not shouted slogans, but they were detained in order to prevent an unsanctioned picket.
The journalists Yulia Darashkevih and Iryna Kozlik were detained on August 8 in the center of Minsk during an action of solidarity with Anton Surapin.
In the evening yesterday the news site of Nasha Niva newspaper reported that they were detained near the Palace of Arts in Minsk center when they were taking photos with teddy-bears as part of the solidarity action.
The court hearing took place today in the Soviet district court of Minsk. They were accused of holding an unsanctioned picket (article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Violations).
Iryna Kozlik works in "Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii" and Yulia Darashkevich is an independent photographer.
The journalists' colleagues have been on duty near the court building since 9am. The detainees spent a night in Akrestsina detention center.
Andrei Bastunets, BAJ deputy chair, said that "Everything what was happening [yesterday] was within the law 'On mass media'. Yulia Darashkevich and Iryna Kozlik didn’t aim to make the protest public, but they were just taking photos, which is not forbidden. Now everyone could be possibly held liable for taking photos in public places.
"As for the trial process, it violated all principles of openness of the trial and also the law 'On mass media'. Any journalist who came there had the right to attend it. However, despite the law, the militiamen impudently blocked the entrance to the courtroom, referring to their own bosses," he said.
Teddy bears have become an unlikely symbol of fight for democracy in Belarus following "toy protests" held by opposition activists in Minsk and last month’s drop of teddy bears on Belarus by Swedish pilots in a pro-democracy stunt.
On July 4, a single-engine plane piloted by two representatives of Sweden's public relations agency Studio Total invaded Belarus' airspace and dropped hundreds of teddy bears with "pro-free speech" signs on the town of Ivyanets and Minsk before flying back to Lithuania unhindered.