Brest City Court convicted independent blogger Siarhey Piatrukhin today. He was found guilty of defamation and insulting policemen. The policemen were prosecution witnesses at the trial, and the sentence is a fine of Br9,180 (€3,900). Piatrukhin also has to pay Br5,770 (€2,450) of moral damages to the policemen. The blogger must pay the fine and moral compensation within a month. His property will be distrained against penalty security until he pays the penalty.
The Movement For Freedom believes that the authorities used this case to take revenge on the video blogger, who gave wide resonance to the protests of Brest residents against the construction of an environmentally hazardous battery factory. Piatrukhin is also known by his reports on the topic of corruption and unfair treatment of citizens by the authorities.
We believe that the sentence was unjust and the punishment is incommensurate and is directed against the freedom of expression.
We state that ‘Piatrukhin’s case’ is a part of ‘BelTA case’, which was used to intimidate independent journalists and to oppress independent media, to penalize freelance journalists in large numbers, and to perform the recent search at Belsat TV channel’s office. The Belarusian authorities are performing a sweeping purge of the information field on the eve of election campaigns.
The MFF considers such actions an attack on the freedom of speech in Belarus. We call on the Belarusian society for solidarity and on international organizations to make an appropriate response and to support the victims.
We demand to justify Piatrukhin, overturn the unjust sentence, and abandon using defamation charges to persecute government opponents!