The Belarusian Association of Journalists urges to organize a press conference for the entire spectrum of the media of the Republic of Belarus and to provide official information about the investigation of criminal cases widely discussed lately.
The materials of some governmental media were dedicated to these high-profile cases, and they were based, as it was stated, on the investigation materials. At the same time in most cases neither the authors of these materials, nor the officials who have provided the information on criminal cases were disclosed, and the materials often looked subjective and one-sided.
At the same time the publication of information on high-profile criminal cases should be aimed for providing citizens with full, precise and timely information from state bodies; this should not be subjective interpretation by anonymous authors (p. 1 of the Regulation on providing information to mass media on high-profile criminal cases and cases undermining the reputation of state authorities, 01.10.2008, № 59/4/283/49/52, approved by the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Belarus State Control Committee, Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Belarus, the Committee of state security of the Republic of Belarus and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus).
Information has to be provided fully with observance of all rights and lawful interests of all parties in the criminal case and third parties concerned, without violation of the secrecy of investigation, rights and interests of other persons and the state (p. 27 of the Regulation). It is inadmissible to publish in the media at a pre-trial stage those materials of a criminal case that have evidentiary value and are to be assessed in a court hearing (p. 29 of the Regulation).
In our opinion, the information on the above mentioned criminal cases distributed in a number of state media, with reference to investigative bodies as sources, does not comply with these provisions of the Regulation and violates equality between mass media, as well as the right of citizens to receive full and timely information about activities of state bodies.
Analogical coverage is given to the cases of Y. Paulavets, D. Alimkin and S. Shyptsenka, who have been under arrest for over four months, charged with inciting national hatred in materials published on the website of the Russian informational agency Regnum and a number of other Russian mass media. This criminal case has also stirred high public interest with the minimum of official information about the course of investigation.
In connection with the above, we ask:
1) To organize a press conference in the nearest time (briefing, meeting with journalists) with the participation of the entire spectrum of the media of the Republic of Belarus, and to present there the official information about the investigation of these criminal cases.
2) In the future, during the investigation of high-profile cases to ensure equal access to the important information for the media of all forms of ownership, thereby ensuring equality of media and transparency of public institutions.