Home Page > News Item > Belarus: Publisher and PEN member Ihar Lohvinau handed draconian fine

lohvinau02 February 2015 RAN 03/15

PEN International is deeply concerned by the large fine recently imposed on the award-winning Belarusian publisher and Belarus PEN member Ihar Lohvinau for ‘carrying out illegal business activities.’ On 9 January 2015, the Economic Court of Minsk convicted the Lohvinau Bookstore of operating without the required state registration and fined it 976 million rubles (€56,000) – the income received from selling books in 2014. If Lohvinau does not pay the fine, he faces confiscation of property and a possible prison sentence. PEN regards the imposition of this fine on Lohvinau as a clear attempt by the Belarus authorities to silence yet another independent voice in Belarus. We call for the conviction and sentence to be overturned and for his business to be allowed to continue operating without politically-motivated hindrance.

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Please send appeals:

• Protest the draconian fine imposed on Ihar Lohvinau for operating his publishing business without the required licence and call on the Belarusian authorities to quash this conviction and overturn the fine;
• Call on the Ministry of Communications and Informatization to grant Lohvinau the required licence (which he has already been denied on six occasions), thereby allowing him to continue his essential work bringing important literary, historical and political works to the people of Belarus;
• Consider donating a sum directly to Ihar Lohvinau, helping him to pay his fine and to continue with his work: http://savelohvinau.club/

Write to

President Alexander Lukashenko
President
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Republic of Belarus
Fax: +375 17 226 06 10
+375 17 222 38 72
Email: contact@president.gov.by Salutation: Dear President

Mr Sergei Popkov
Ministry of Communications and Informatization
10 Independence Avenue
220050 Minsk
Republic of Belarus
Fax: 327-21-57
Email: mpt@mpt.gov.by
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copy to the Embassy of Belarus in your country. You can find embassy addresses here

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 02 March 2015. ***

Please inform PEN of any action you take, and of any responses you receive

Background

In 2014, Ihar Lohvinau won the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish award in recognition of his courage in continuing to publish important international works translated into the Belarusian language, despite attempts by the Belarusian authorities to stifle him. His licence to operate was withdrawn in 2013 after he was accused of ‘promoting extremism;’ this followed his publication of the Belarus Press Photo 2011 book, which contained a bloodied image of a young man protesting against President Lukashenko. Since 2013, Lohvinau has on six occasions sought the obligatory state registration to publish and distribute books, but has been denied a licence by the Ministry of Information every time. He says that no adequate explanation has ever been given to him. On 30 January 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed Lohvinau’s appeal against the refusal of the Information Ministry to grant him a licence to disseminate printed materials.

Lohvinau is a member of Belarus PEN and is a very well known figure in Belarusian literary and cultural circles. He has been running the Lohvinau Publishing House since 2000, and has printed over 700 titles, many of which are translations of international works of history, politics, literature and art. He also runs a bookshop, a book club and a café which acts as a meeting place for members of the Belarusian intellectual community.

President Lukashenko’s regime tolerates very little criticism – recent years have seen an unprecedented crackdown on free expression, with some commentators dubbing it ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. Opposition voices face threats, arbitrary arrest, beatings and imprisonment. In October 2014, PEN submitted a joint letter (with English PEN, German PEN, the International Publishers’ Association and the Publishers Association UK) to Belarus’ Minister of Communication and Information, protesting Belarus’ restrictive publishing laws, which contain ‘several provisions which are incompatible with the right to free expression.’

For further details contact Cathal Sheerin at PEN International’s London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: cathal.sheerin@pen-international.org

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