MINSK -- A court in Minsk has fined two independent journalists after finding them guilty of working without press accreditation.
Correspondents of the Warsaw-based Belsat TV channel, Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Syarhey Kavalyou, were fined 1,150 rubles ($595) each on August 25. The journalists decided not to attend the trial to protest the case against them.
Later on August 25, two other Belsat TV correspondents, Ales Silich and Maria Artsybashava, were to face hearings on the same charge.
The journalism watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on August 24 condemned what it said was the increasing persecution of independent journalists in Belarus, citing ongoing trials of Belsat TV journalists.
The group said Belsat TV reporters have been the leading victims of persecution, having been targeted by at least 26 prosecutions for working without press accreditation and accumulating more than 10,000 euros in fines so far this year.
RSF stressed that by banning media based abroad like Belsat from opening bureaus in Minsk, the authorities force correspondents to work without accreditation. This, in turn, is used as grounds for prosecutions and fines.
Belarus ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in the watchdog's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.