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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you can. But in addition to the documents enlisted you have to present a proof that the contribution you plan to work on has been commissioned — a letter from your commissioning editor would suit. Another option is, the chief notifies in the accreditation request that you have been contributing to the media outlet on a permanent basis.

Any reporting without accreditation is prohibited by law. Anyone caught doing journalistic activities unaccredited is subject to administrative punishment, such as fine. Lately, dozens of independent journalists in Belarus have been fined for performing their professional duties unaccredited. Fines may vary from the equivalent of $200 up to $600 and even more. If you are a foreigner, you may be deported, denied further entry to the country, and your publication may be denied accreditation in Belarus.

Once you have accreditation, you need to deal with travel documents.

Citizens of the following countries don't need a visa to enter Belarus on reporting purposes (however, the accreditation is still required): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba (for a period not exceeding 30 days), Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Qatar (for a period not exceeding 30 days), Russia, Serbia (for a period not exceeding 30 days), Tajikistan, Turkey (for a period not exceeding 30 days), Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (for a period not exceeding 90 days), Ecuador (for a period not exceeding 30 days).

If your country is not on the list, you need a journalist visa to enter Belarus for reporting. Please be informed that normally such type of visa is twice as expensive as a standard short-term one.

You can apply for a journalist visa at the nearest Belarusian consular service. Please find visa requirements here. 

However, it is recommended that you apply at the very embassy stated in the accreditation request, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to cable a visa support message for you there.

If the point of visa application is changed after you applied for accreditation, you're expected to notify the Ministry.

If you plan to work as a journalist while in Belarus, you should apply for accreditation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus prior to your visa application.

Basically, there are two types of accreditation: permanent, that is valid for up to one year (usually applies to bureaus' personnel), and temporary, with up to two months of validity.

One can apply for temporary accreditation by sending the following documents to press@mfa.gov.by:

- A request for journalist's accreditation signed by applicant's media outlet chief. It should indicate applicant's first and last names, citizenship, date of birth, passport number, its issue and expiration dates, desired period of accreditation, diplomatic mission where applicant intends to receive entry visa, purposes of the visit (estimated area of reporting);

- Standard application form completed personally by applicant;

- Applicant's photo (minimum size, if printed, is 3x4 cm). Written documents should be submitted in PDF format, and the photo in JPG format. Standard term to consider application is 20 working days (four weeks), but sometimes the decision is made faster. Please be advised to check if your documents have been received by calling the press service at +375 17 327 51 54 as they normally do not confirm receipt of documents.

It is also suggested, once the standard waiting period is over, to check with the MFA press service if you have been approved as no notice of the decision made is common. Inquiries to MFA press service can be performed by applicant themselves, or by their representative/ fixer. During electoral campaigns there is normally a simplified procedure of getting a temporary accreditation. But, as of August 10, no such procedure was announced for the upcoming presidential elections.

As in most countries, a valid visa does not necessarily guarantee entry to the country. On the border, you will be asked to fill in a migration card. You need to keep this safe because you will be asked to return it when leaving the country. Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (previously the Customs Union), so the EEU norms and restrictions apply to foreign visitors regarding transportation of goods. You are allowed to bring in personal items whose customs value does not exceed 1,500 euro (or 10,000 euro if you arrive by plane), with total weight not exceeding 50 kilograms. This includes up to 3 liters of alcoholic beverages and beer, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 gr of tobacco. In addition, you're allowed to bring other used items of personal use with restrictions applied: e.g., only one photo- or videocamera or two mobile phones per person. Any goods exceeding these amounts should be enlisted in customs declaration and are subject to customs duty. No meat or dairy products are allowed in. You can bring up to the equivalent of $10,000 in cash undeclared. Sums exceeding this amount should be enlisted in customs declaration. Important! Please be strongly advised against giving bribes to any public officer in Belarus as such conduct will be immediately followed by criminal prosecution.

Having general accreditation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not mean that you will easily get to any event. To work at some important venues/ events, you may need to apply for additional accreditation which is typically issued by the press service of the event host (e.g. President's Press Service for the events involving the President of Belarus, etc.)

The basic rule is to be polite, and not to panic. Please be advised against physical resistance to police officer as this can lead to criminal prosecution. The law requires that the police officer reads the detainee's rights, but this usually does not happen in practice. You cannot be detained for longer than three hours for ID checks. If you are convicted of committing serious administrative offense, then maximum detention time is increased to 72 hours – but you must be notified about it. You have a right to know what you are being detained for. You can also ask the detaining officer to identify themselves. It is also recommended that you make an audio recording of your detention, but not in a provocative manner. A police officer has a right to withdraw personal items on detention, but it is obligatory that all such withdrawals are enlisted in the detention protocol, or in a separate withdrawal protocol. A police officer must provide you with a copy of the withdrawal protocol, or administrative offense protocol, if such applies. It is recommended that you draw colleagues' attention to your detention, or try to contact your colleagues/ supervisor to inform them of what's happening. Upon your request, police officer must inform your relatives/ employer of your detention no later than three hours after it takes place. However, the law does not oblige the officer to provide you with an opportunity to make a call by yourself. If you're detained for more than three hours, you cannot be denied drinking water or food. Also, you cannot be denied visiting lavatory.

A protocol of detention will be made up as well as a protocol of the possessions that you have on you at the time of arrest. The protocol and the rights must be read to the arrested. The protocol must be signed by the police officer and the arrested. Important! When signing the protocol, do this on the very right of the last phrase, leaving no space in between – so that no word can be added later on, in your absence. Remember that all amendments to the protocol after it is signed should be certified by your signature. You have a right for legal assistance. No later than three hours after the arrested is taken to custody the detention order should be completed, which is the ground for further arrest, or the release order should be issued. The detention order should be read to the arrested. Arrest can be made on the ground of direct suspicion without an opened criminal case. If this is the case, the prosecuting authority must open such a criminal case within 12 hours after arrest. The arrest on the ground of suspicion cannot last more than 72 hours (in case of some offenses – more than 10 days).

Bear in mind that all phone conversations can be followed and even recorded. Regular post is not a reliable way of sending valuables, data storage devices and important documents – the wiser option would be to address international express delivery services. It is also not advised to transmit sensitive data including passport data and personal information, or pay by credit/ debit card using public wi-fi connections as some of them may have crucial vulnerabilities. Most cable connections, and hotel wi-fi are relatively safe and can guarantee you protection from unauthorized interference, except for the one by state security services. Local 3G connections can be even safer as it would take security officers some time to disclose your identity after you purchase a local sim card. Local sim cards with prepaid internet traffic can be purchased at most offices of the three mobile networks operating in Belarus (Velcom, MTS, life).

Many cafes, restaurants and bars have relatively good wi-fi connection, however some don't have it at all. The law now requires all internet users in Belarus to identify themselves. So in theory you can be asked to show your ID, but at most places this requirement is omitted. Also, there are PC access points ('internet cafes') where you can use the Internet, but they normally require the user to provide their passport. In most public places in big cities wi-fi for purchase is also available, provided by state monopolist Beltelecom (BELTELECOM network). In order to use it, you need to buy a wi-fi card at the nearest newsstand. The billing is time-based. There're cards available for 60, 180, 600 minutes, 1, 3 and 5 days of internet usage. Velcom and MTS subscribers can also purchase access by sending an empty sms to: 9101 (for 60-minute access) or 9103 (for 180-minute access). The due amount will be debited from your balance.

It is forbidden to take pictures or do video shooting on board the aircraft, at border control, in court hearings related to state secrets, in embassies and consulates, in night clubs, casinos and slot machine houses, in libraries, in museums when unaccompanied by a museum employee. Also, it's forbidden to photograph vulnerable protected areas such as railway stations, airports, Minsk underground, oil installations and main pipelines.

Generally, Belarus has lower crime rate than most of the other former USSR countries. Nevertheless, in most big cities there are districts that are recommended to avoid walking alone at night. Beware of pickpockets in public transport, and local swindlers. The emergency assistance telephone number is 112 and can be dialed from both landline and mobile phones. On arrival make sure that you have contacts of your embassy. If you are expecting any problems, inform the embassy representatives of it. Make sure to have all the necessary contacts, including the phone number and address of your fixer, other familiar locals, contact persons in public and governmental bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that issued your accreditation. Most public service bodies now have hotlines you can address in case of specific problems, but the operators barely speak any foreign language including English.

If you plan to exchange foreign currency, go to an exchange office at a bank. In taxis, make sure the meter is switched on. Before a ride, it is recommended that you inquire about the average ride cost for the desired distance, to avoid double-charging. Use only certified cabs which must have special 'TAX' yellow license plates. Please be advised not to use cabs parked at airport or major railway stations, as such a ride would usually cost more. Ask someone to call a taxi instead. When using ATMs, make sure no skimmer is installed upon the card opening.

International journalists working in Belarus should refer to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the “Law on Mass Media”. The standards of co-operating of public and governmental bodies with journalists are enlisted in the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 65 of February 6, 2009.

According to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus (the third part of the Article 56), the elections for the House of Representatives of the new convocation are appointed by the President of the Republic of Belarus not later than four months before and not later than 30 days before the end of the term of the current House of Representatives’ convocation. According to the Article 4 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus” the term of office is four years. The mandate of the National Assembly’s chambers starts since the first meeting of the newly elected House of Representatives of the Council of the Republic. 

The previous elections for the House of Representatives were held on 23rd September 2012, and the first meeting of the House of Representatives of the fifth convocation was held on 18th October 2012. 
Thus, the four-year term of office of the House of Representatives ends on 17th October 2016, and the elections for the House of Representatives of the sixth convocation must be held not later than on 17th September 2016. In conformity with the usual practice the parliamentary elections are held on Sunday, and therefore the exact deadline for the elections in 2016 is 11th September 2016. 

The elections to the Council of the Republic of the new convocation are appointed by the President of the Republic not later than four months, and are held within 30 days before the end of the term of the current convocation of the Council of the Republic (article 97(1) of the Electoral Code)

The current term of the office of the Council of the Republic ends on 18th October 2016 because the first meeting of the Council of the Republic of the fifth convocation was held on 19th October 2012. 
Therefore, the elections for the Council of the republic of the sixth convocation will be held in the period from 18th June to 18th September 2016.

In accordance with the decree of the President, the Belarus parliamentary election will be held September 11, 2016. 

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