Characteristics of court case coverage by state propaganda

Characteristics of court case coverage by state propaganda

How young prosecutors send «cynical writers» and «grocery cart drivers» to jail

Belsat.eu
17.03.2021 Olga Aleshko-Lessels

Belarusian television (BT) claims that in Western countries the legislation and the police are even tougher, frightens Belarusians with criminal cases for any offense, and regularly looks into young state prosecutors’ criminal cases.

BT and young prosecutor’s office employees

After the high-profile case of Belsat, resulting in Katerina Andreeva and Daria Chultsova being sentenced to two years in prison for conducting their work as journalists, propagandist Alexey Golikov discussed the latter of the two in his story on the television station STV:

«Forgive me, what opinion can a 24-year-old girl have? Let her first marry, give birth, and raise children, and then we can talk.»

At the same time, Golikov ignored the age and marital status of 23-year-old Alina Kasyanchik, who served as public prosecutor, and did not honor her with any epithets.

Here we have another young employee, Anastasiya Maliko, senior assistant to the prosecutor in Minsk’s Soviet district, who is discussing one of the protest cases on BT. She was a prosecutor in another high-profile case that resulted in a 29-year-old protester receiving seven years in a maximum-security prison.

And here is Valeria Taratynko, senior assistant to the prosecutor in another district of the capital who graduated from university only a few years ago, commenting on Belarus Channel 1 on a criminal case that ended with political prisoner Artem Savchuk being sentenced to 4 years in prison under high security for allegedly using a grocery cart to build a barricade on the street. According to human rights activists, the man was really helping push the carts in the parking lot of a shopping center, however he could not have known how they would be used later.

Among other things, Taratynko has served as a prosecutor in the case against three political prisoners regarding the phrase «We will not forget» painted on the sidewalk in memory of Alexander Taraikovsky, who was murdered close to Pushkinskaya metro station in Minsk. Kasyanchik, mentioned above, was the prosecutor in a similarly scandalous case regarding a similar «cynical inscription» painted on the sidewalk that referred to a 25-year-old woman and 26-year-old man who have also been recognized as political prisoners.

Many have taken note of the young age of women prosecutors and judges in political trials. And not without reason, as news reports on Belarusian television indicate that this is indeed the rule rather than the exception. Either that or BT prefers to run such stories more often, perhaps to show how the «younger generation» decisively supports Lukashenko’s rule.

How are things in the U.S.?

It is worth noting that the protest-related criminal cases covered by BT only rarely concern the law enforcement officers who have suffered. At the same time, it has often been stated officially that in the days of August alone «dozens of law enforcement officers» were wounded, followed then by stories about «extremists and terrorists.» For example, the evening editions of Panorama of news programmes on Belarus 1 TV showed only a couple of investigations into incidents involving car collisions, while it is unclear who caused them.

Instead of making public cases concerning the repeatedly discussed harsh attacks on law enforcement officers, the most resonant, according to BT itself, was the case… about the painting of shields. In a story about «extremists and terrorists» is an account of a Minsk resident who insulted a government official. For the most part, Belarus Channel 1 reports on so-called hooligans who inadvertently fell under the influence of «destructive Telegram channels.» Moreover, the sentences for many harmless «hooligan antics» are exceedingly harsh. At the same time, entire manipulative stories run by Belarus Channel 1, pulling various events out of context, claim that in Western countries the police are allegedly even tougher and that the punishment is supposedly even harsher.

BT reports often on criminal cases for insulting law enforcement officers and officials. Some, it would seem, are completely baseless: a chef wrote critical comments on Telegram channels, insulting comments were made towards the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a government official was insulted, someone hung stuffed dolls with photographs of high-ranking officials… In Western countries, which are often referred to manipulatively by BT – even more so the U.S., where the First Amendment to the Constitution permits harsh criticism, ridicule, and even insult to the authorities – such cases would simply not be admitted.

At the same time, what freedom of speech in the U.S. and other Western countries does not apply to is incitement to violence and hate speech. It seems that in Belarus everything is exactly the opposite. On state television, labels (for example, «zmagars») are applied here and there to population groups, attributing to them the most negative connotations, openly insulting opposition politicians and activists, even opaquely justifying the deadly Nazi executions of women and children «in the name of order» (is this not incitement to violence and hate speech?), but freedom of speech is persecuted and punished.

Moreover, the Belarusian authorities continue to prepare even tougher amendments to the legislation that are less compatible with international standards, especially regarding the incredibly broad interpretation of extremist activities. Their adoption will finally place Belarus in the ranks of the most repressive countries in the world next to Central Asian and certain African dictatorships.

Материал доступен на русском языке: Особенности освещения судебных дел государственной пропагандой

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