Andrei Bastunets: Authorities can declare anything to be extremist
14:20, — Politics
Any official can declare extremist whatever he wants guided by his understandings.
Andrei Bastunets, a deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), spoke to charter97.org about revoking a licence of Lohvinau Publishing House.
“It's difficult for me to comment on the actions by the Ministry of Information. I think the situation of the album Belarus Press Photo was used as a ground and an opportunity to punish the publishing house. I deeply believe that even this case didn't give a good reason for revoking the licence,” the lawyer thinks.
He notes that this case doesn't demonstrate pressure on the press and publishing houses.
“I'd rather say about using the law on control of extremism as a tool to limit freedom of speech. Several cases we have seen, a broad interpretation of 'extremism' in the law and the methods used by our law-enforcement bodies and officials allow to minimise freedom of speech. Any customs officer or a member of a ministry can declare anything he wants to be extremist guided by his or her understandings,” the journalist says.
The BAJ deputy head stressed that the situation had two problems.
“The first one is the law itself. The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media assessed the law and turned attention to a broad interpretation of the term 'extremist activity'. In other words, the law is not perfect. The second problem is the practice of using this legislation. Legislation can be balanced by other approaches, the Belarusian Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Belarus and the official practice of application of the law. If courts and officials regarded legislation as part of the system and remembered about the hierarchy of legal acts, such cases would be impossible,” Andrei Bastunets is sure.
We remind that sole proprietor Ihar Lohvinau received notification about revoking a licence for publishing activity for printing the album Belarus Press Photo 2011.