Press Club leaders charged in ‘tax evasion’ case Updated
Yuliya Slutskaya, founder of Press Club Belarus, was formally charged under Part 2 of Article 243 (tax evasion on an especially large scale), euroradio.fm said. She will remain in custody until at least February 22.
The charges were also brought against Press Club’s financial director Siarhei Alsheuski, program director Ala Sharko, and videographers Piotr Slutski and Dzianis Sakalouski.
On December 22, financial police searched the Minsk office of Press Club Belarus. The head of the project, Yuliya Slutskaya, program director Ala Sharko, financial director Siarhei Alsheuski, head of the Press Club Academy Siarhei Yakupau, videographer Piotr Slutski, and Kseniya Lutskina, former journalist of the government-owned TV channel Belarus 1, were detained.
European Federation of Journalists condemned the Belarusian government’s attack on Belarus Press Club.
“This repression must stop immediately,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. “We demand the release of Yuliya and all her colleagues. We call on the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE to react vigorously to this new wave of repression”.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists expresses its support for Press Club Belarus.
“We believe Press Club members are prosecuted because of their activities aimed at supporting the media and the development of the media community in Belarus,” BAJ said in a statement.
The Swiss-German human rights group Libereco launched an email campaign calling on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the arrested media workers.
“The arrests are another attack on press freedom in Belarus aimed at intimidating independent journalists,” Libereco said.
Journalists have been routinely persecuted in Belarus under Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s rule. The repression intensified after the rigged presidential election of August 9.
According to BAJ, there were 477 detentions of journalists. Nine media representatives are held on criminal charges and may be imprisoned for their peaceful work to cover the post-election protests.
UPD. Siarhei Yakupau, head of the Press Club Academy, who holds a Russian citizenship, has been released and deported to Russia. Yakupau has not faced any charges, according to his lawyer Anton Hashynski. Yakupau's release was solicited by several major Russian media outlets.