Updated at 17:46,10-07-2018

Police in Smalyavichy detain group of journalists to prevent them from attending public meeting with member of local district council


A group of journalists were briefly detained by police in Smyalyavichy, Minsk region, on December 24 after they came to the city to attend a public meeting with Yahor Lebyadok, a member of the Smalyavichy District Soviet (Council).

Syarhey Vaznyak, Mikalay Petrushenka, Vyachaslaw Pyashko, Syarhey Kruchkow and Lola Buryyeva, who are members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, were arrested at Smalyavichy’s culture club at about 11 a.m., 10 minutes before the meeting began. Police Lieutenant Colonel Andrey Martysyuk and two other uniformed police officers took away their passports and ordered the five journalists to go with them to the Smalyavichy district police department for "identification purposes."

As Mr. Vaznyak told BelaPAN, he spent more than two hours at the police department. He was ordered to provide a written account of the purpose of his visit to Smalyavichy. Police officers took away a video camera and data storage devices from Ms. Buryyeva for "examination" and returned them a few hours later.

Mr. Lebyadok came to the police department after the meeting and talked to the journalists. "He promised to make an inquiry to the police department about the reason for the detention of the journalists," Mr. Vaznyak said, adding that the Belarusian Association of Journalists would officially ask Mr. Lebyadok to find out why the Smalyavichy police prevented the journalists from performing their professional duties.

During the meeting, the journalists were expected to raise the issue of the planned construction of the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park in the Smalyavichy district, whose residents are unhappy with the project. An agreement on the establishment of the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park was signed in Minsk in September 2011 and ratified by the Belarusian parliament in December 2011. Specific construction work to build facilities in the area is expected to begin in the spring of 2013.

Under Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s edict, the park is to occupy a total area of 8,048 hectares (19,890 acres) and have the status of a "special economic zone" where resident companies will be granted special treatment for 50 years for the purpose of "securing comfortable conditions of doing business and investment attractiveness."

Residence in the Park will be limited to Belarusian-registered legal entities that would specialize in electronics, fine chemistry, biotechnologies, machine-building and the development of new materials. Each company will be required at to invest at least $5 million.

"Strategic investors" will be granted the same concessions as companies in Belarus’ Free Economic Zones, High-Technology Park and small and medium-sized cities.

Mr. Lukashenka said in December 2011 that Chinese companies would invest dozens of billions of dollars in the Park, whose scale he said was unprecedented even for China. "The most state-of-the-art enterprises will be started," he said. "Companies from all over the world will be involved."
Industrial Park Development Company (IPDC) was founded in August to build and manage the Park’s facilities. The founders include China's CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd. (CAMCE), which owns 60 percent of the company, and the Minsk Regional Executive Committee and Minsk-based television manufacturer Horizont, which hold 30 and 10 percent, respectively.