Mykolaiv teacher convicted of interfering with the work of a journalist
On October 5, 2023, the Mykolaiv Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the first instance court, convicting Yevhen Bazulka, a teacher in a Mykolaiv school, of interfering with the work of Natalia Belova, a journalist for the local media outlet "Korabelov.Info", reports the IMI representative in Mykolaiv oblast, Kateryna Sereda.
The appellate court's decision entered into force on October 5 and may be appealed in the Supreme Court before January 10.
Nine years ago, during the 2014 presidential elections in Ukraine, Yevhen Bazulko, being a member of the election commission, interfered with the work of journalist Natalia Belova. At first, he threatened to break her camera, demanded to stop filming the voting. Then he stood up and deliberately shoved the journalist with his shoulder on the hand she was holding the camera with.
"Not stopping his illegal actions at that, PERSON_9 [hereinafter Yevhen Bazulko] entered into a verbal argument with the journalist and, wanting to prevent the process of video recording, began covering the camera's lens with his hand. After that, Yevhen Bazulko, not responding to the members of the election commission asking him to stop his illegal actions, continuing to act with the sole intention of hindering journalistic work, turned his back on the journalist and continued to prevent the latter from recording of the voting process on video," says the April 2023 ruling of the Korabelny district Court of Mykolaiv.
After that, Yevhen Bazulko grabbed a school bench from the floor and hit the journalist Natalia Belova on the legs.
Having reviewed the Korabelny District Court ruling, the Court of Appeal dismissed Yevhen Bazulko's complaint without satisfaction.
The court found Bazulko guilty of committing a criminal misdemeanor as per Part 1 of Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("Preclusion of legal professional activities of journalists") and fined him UAH 850. He was exempted from paying the fine due to the old age of the case. However, the court ruled to collect the examination expenses (UAH 14,000) from Yevhen Bazulka for the benefit of the state.
"Nine years passed between the shameful behavior of an election commission member (a school No. 48 teacher) in the 2014 voting and the court ruling convicting Yevhen Bazulka of a criminal misdemeanor – preclusion of journalistic work. Nine long years of struggle in anticipation, first of a professional investigation of the case by the police (it turned out to be very difficult!), then of a fair court ruling (three judges had to try it one by one). During these years, the world was continuously changing, the damned war brought a lot of grief to the country, and we might have as well written off the crazy Bazulko, who remained the same – lacking in honour, shame or a conscience. But the thought that I was not fighting for myself, but for the rights of all journalists, so that no fool dares interfere with the work of the mass media, gave me the strength to keep going," Natalia Belova commented on the court's ruling on Facebook.
In July 2014, IMI reported that the police had closed the case of interfering with a journalist on election day, not finding any corpus delicti in the incident.
According to Natalia Belova, the police opened the investigation three times, closing it every time due to the "lack of a corpus delicti," so she had to contact the attorney's office and the court about this.
However, the investigation was later reopened, and in 2017, only two and a half years after its opening, police investigators submitted a criminal case regarding the preclusion of professional journalistic work against a journalist for the Mykolaiv online media outlet "Korabelov.info", Natalia Belova, to court.
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