Journalist Deemed Too Minor to Make Blacklist

     (CN) – Aliaksei Mikhalchanka is, by all accounts, a journalist for the state-owned television network ONT in Belarus. He is a political commentator for the network, a job made infinitely more interesting in the midst of kidnappings, fraudulent elections and human rights abuses in the formerly soviet republic beginning in the late 1990s.
     After the Belarusian government cracked down on peaceful protests in 2010, the European Union launched economic sanctions and travel restrictions against Belarusian officials and influential people. Mikhalchanka was blacklisted in 2011 on the belief that he and his network were “an instrument of state propaganda on TV which supports and justifies the repression of the democratic opposition and of civil society,” according to findings by the European Council.
     Mikhalchanka sued to get his name off the blacklist, and in a judgment issued Tuesday the EU’s lower court agreed that lawmakers had failed to justify sanctions against the journalist.
     For one thing, the council failed to fulfill its obligation to inform Mikhalchanka of changes made to a list of reasons why he should be blacklisted – making it impossible for him to defend himself, the court said in its French-only opinion.
     Lawmakers also exaggerated Mikhalchanka’s importance at ONT, the court said. He is not a news anchor at the network or even a senior journalist, the court said.
     Instead, Mikhalchanka is a political commentator for a low-rated program on the network – hardly important enough to bear responsibility for influencing government crackdowns and election fraud, the court concluded.

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