The investigation into the case of three Belarusian political writers, including EADaily columnist Yuri Pavlovets is over. All the files have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, according to Yuri’s wife Lyubov Pavlovets.
All the three (Pavlovets, Sergey Shiptenko and Dmitry Alimkin) are facing the charge of kindling ethnic strife and have been in custody since Dec 2016. In Aug 2017, the investigators said that Pavlovets had been in “collusion” with a group of some “unknown people” rather than with Editor-in-Chief of Regnum Yuri Baranchik, as they had claimed before.
The lawyer of Pavlovets attached two independent opinions: both the Expert Council under Belarus’s Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs and a group of historians confirmed that there were no signs of extremism in Pavlovets’s articles.
Earlier, a republican expert commission of the Belarusian Information Ministry had detected such signs in nine articles published Pavlovets in EADaily, Regnum and Lenta.ru under the pennames of Nikolay Radov and Pavel Yurintsev. Later, three experts re-examined the articles (two of them, Alla Kirdun and Alesya Andreyeva were from the expert commission) and found out that Pavlovets propagated extremism in his trilogy about Belarusian ethnic identity.
The experts believe that the trilogy has weakened Belarus’s relations with Russia. Their findings are far from being logical and impartial. Particularly, the experts conclude that the paragraph saying that only 1.5-2% of the Belarusians use Belarusian in their daily interpersonal communications means that the Belarusian language is dead. And their final conclusion is that the trilogy implies that the Belarusians are an inferior nation.
The request to examine Pavlovets’s articles was sent to the Belarusian Information Ministry on Nov 30, 2016. The examination was carried out on Dec 2, 2016. This means that Kirdun, Andreyeva and the third expert Yelena Ivanova spent just one day to examine nine big articles, while the Belarusian laws give 30 days for such a procedure.
The articles have also been examined by a group of independent experts and researchers. In contrast, Philologist, Doctor of Laws Yelena Galyashina has found nothing criminal in any of the nine articles.
According to Galyashina, kindling ethnic strife implies a call for a genocide, repressions, deportations or other types of violence against representatives of another nation, race or religion. In the articles, Galyashina has found no such calls.
And she also notes that criticism of political and religious organizations or national and religious customs should not be regarded as an action to kindle ethnic or religious strife.
Consequently, it is contrary to the international law to persecute a journalist for politically correct criticism.
According to the independent experts, Pavlovets’s trilogy about Belarusian ethnic identity is a kind of a research note. The first chapter of the trilogy refers to the period of 1991-1996, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and presents the author’s view of Belarus’s national policy during that period, more specifically, his critical approach towards the Belarusian President’s policy to fight local nationalists with the use of Soviet-time stereotypes.
“This chapter contains no calls for extremism, discrimination or enmity, no calls for a genocide, repressions, deportations or other types of violence against representatives of another nation, race or religion. On the contrary, the author criticizes the Belarusian authorities for their inconsistency in preventing the attempts by local nationalists to tear Belarus away from Russia,” Galyashina says.
She notes that Pavlovets uses historical facts and is very tactful in his rhetoric. “He does not use any insulting or humiliating statements or comparisons with respect to the Belarusians, their history or culture,” the expert says.
So, her conclusion is that the first chapter of Pavlovets’s trilogy is a rational critical analysis and contains no insulting or humiliating elements.
The second chapter of the trilogy refers to the period of 1996-2010 and says that lots of pro-European and anti-Russian forces emerged during that period. Here, Galyashina sees no extremism either. “What Pavlovets says is just his critical approach towards the national policy of the Belarusian authorities, to be more precise, towards their decision to revise their policy to integrate with Russia. Here too, Pavlovets uses quite tactful and emotionally restrained rhetoric. This chapter too has no linguistic features that could kindle ethnic or religious strife or could humiliate a nation’s dignity,” Galyashina says.
The third chapter of the trilogy is also quite tactful. “Here the author refers to the period of 2010-2014 and says that that period laid the foundations of the present-day sate nationalism in Belarus, a policy that is undermining the ideological and cultural-historical unity of the Russian and Belarusian peoples. One of the examples of this trend is the refusal to use the St. George Ribbon as the symbol of the victory in the Great Patriotic War and its replacement with a red and green ribbon with an apple flower,” says Galyashina.
She notes that the third chapter is a critical analysis of the current social-political situation in Belarus and the current policy of the Belarusian authorities. “Just like the first two chapters, this one does not have any signs of extremism,” Galyashina says.
Expert from Latvia, member of the International Federation of Independent Experts Nikolay Gudanets has also examined Pavlovets’s articles and his opinion is that they are calm, well-balanced and emotionally restrained. “The author puts no labels but lets the reader draw own conclusions. The articles contain no signs of any ethnic, racial or religious discrimination, nor any calls for violence,” Gudanets says.
Russia’s Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications has also examined the articles and has not detected there anything criminal or contrary to Russia’s laws.
“The articles contain no features that could violate article 4 of Russia’s law on mass media or the federal law on prevention of extremism,” the Agency says.
Lots of outstanding public figures, MPs and human rights activists have stood up for the arrested Belarusian journalists. All of them point out that a journalist must not be prosecuted for expressing his or her opinion or for criticizing a regime.
The wife of Pavlovets says that the investigation has been superficial and biased. “All it has managed to find out in more than a year is that the crime has been committed in collusion with a group of some unknown people. Who are those people? What was their purpose? My husband says that he would like to see the negative consequences of this article, more specifically, he wants to know if there had actually been any negative comments before the investigation,” the wife of the arrested journalist says.
She notes that the rhetoric of the case resembles the times of the Stalin repressions – something like “was engaged in anti-Soviet propaganda,” “cast aspersions on news in the Soviet press,” etc.
Since his arrest, Pavlovets has seen his wife just a couple of times and his daughter just once. He does not plead guilty and is surprised to see himself in custody. He has always been an advocate of Russian-Belarusian integration and has never insulted anybody. The wife of Pavlovets quotes him as saying that it is very unpleasant for him to see so much dirt poured on him and that he is grateful to all those who have supported him and his family in this hard situation.