Thirty-eight days later Belarusian newspaper facing fines after its journalist was injured by police while covering protests
Belarusian journalist Natalya Lubnevskaya was covering an opposition demonstration on Kaĺvaryjskaja Street in Minsk on August 10, when she was injured by a rubber bullet. More than a month later, she’s still undergoing rehabilitation. And the newspaper she works for, Nasha Niva, is facing fines, reports its editor-in-chief Jahor Marcinovich.
Lubnevskaya took a rubber bullet to the leg. Nasha Niva uploaded a video in which a law enforcement officer can be seen shooting her at close range (the newspaper suspects that the officer in question was from the Interior Ministry’s Almaz Special Anti-Terrorism Unit, according to other reports it was a special forces officer from the KGB’s Alpha Group). Nasha Niva believes that the officer aimed at Lubnevskaya on purpose — even though she was wearing a blue “Press” vest.
Warning. This video shows Lubnevskaya’s wound from the rubber bullet.
Natalya Lubnevskaya was admitted to hospital and spent 38 days there (she is now continuing her rehabilitation at home). Lubnevskaya submitted a complaint to the Belarusian Investigative Committee, demanding the launch of a criminal proceedings over the bodily harm inflicted upon her. State investigators came to interview her twice, but have yet to open a criminal case. Later, Lubnevskaya received notice that the time frame for the inquiry into her complaint was extended until September 21.
“Thirty-eight days in the hospital — this is the award the state has given me for my work as a journalist. No apology, no criminal case against the shooter, and, God forbid, no compensation. As a matter of fact, that was my favorite pair of jeans and a one-of-a-kind leg. I’m getting through my trauma just like other Belarusians — through humor (because fear doesn’t help and justice is over). My family has a meme now: bullets are the only thing that can save you from ‘a trip to the potatoes’ [work],” Lubnevskaya wrote on Facebook on September 16.
On September 21, Nasha Niva’s editor-in-chief Jahor Marcinovich announced that the newspaper is facing fine over the situation surrounding Lubnevskaya’s injury.
“For us, this is the first such situation — one with an injured journalist — and, we hope, the last. Of course, we have no set procedure for such exceptional situations. Since Natalya’s case can be interpreted as an occupational injury, the accounting department contacted Belgosstrakh [the government health insurance agency] to clarify which documents needed to be provided to them. The specialists gave a list of necessary [paperwork], but warned that in any case, following the proceedings, Nasha Niva should received a fine from the government — because it failed to give timely notice of the incident and didn’t conduct an internal investigation,” Marcinovich wrote on Facebook.
During the initial days of the protests in Belarus, which began after the presidential elections ended on August 9, law enforcement officers used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowds. Other journalists — in addition to Lubnevskaya — were injured as a result, including Pavel Dobrovolskij, a correspondent for Belsat’s Vot Tak TV, Belsat photographer Tatiana Kapitonova, and MBX Media correspondent Alexander Skrylnikov. Meduza’s correspondent Maxim Solopov was among the victims: he was arrested and beaten by Belarusian law enforcement, and sustained a head injury. After about two days in custody in Belarus, Solopov was released and returned to Russia.