Journalists’ Computers will be Further Examined
Four Belarusian journalists were interrogated by the police once again 28 April. They were informed their computers that had been confiscated during searches in March 2010 would be further examined. Besides, some of them learnt the police had found some files “related to the criminal case” on their hard drives.
Four Belarusian journalists, Sviatlana Kalinkina, Maryna Koktysh, Iryna Khalip and Natallia Radzina, met Aliaksandr Puseu, a Senior Investigator of Homiel Regional Department of Internal Affairs.
Sviatlana Kalinkina was informed about results of examination of her computers that had been confiscated from her working place at the editorial board of Narodnaya Volia newspaper and her home. The investigation found no information concerning the criminal case on slander against Ivan Korzh, former chief of KGB Homiel Regional Department. Still, the computers have not been returned to the journalist as they are sent to a new examination.
“I wrote a complaint as I regard this step to show arbitrariness and persecution of me as a person who criticized law enforcements many times. I can even see signs of a criminal article on interfering with journalistic activities in those actions by the police,” Sviatlana Kalinkina says.
Maryna Koktysh has not received her belongings back – the police have not returned even a DVD with “House M. D.” series that was confiscated together with other information carriers and equipment.
“According to the results of the examination, they found some files that might be related to the criminal case, and they initiated a new examination of two my computers. I also understood it from the investigator’s words that they will try to examine my e-mails and Skype conversations,” Maryna Koktysh told BAJ Press Service.
A visit of Iryna Khalip to the police had the same result: the investigation had not been satisfied with the outcomes of the examination of her computers, although some 64 files with “key words” had been found at her hard drives. Still, the journalist’s computers will be further examined as well.
Natallia Radzina, an editor of Charter“97 web site, was familiarized with the results of examination of her computers that had been confiscated 16 March, and was informed the investigation would have another look at the contents of her hard drives.
“No proofs that my computers were involved in disseminating of ”slanderous” information have been found. At the same time I learnt that police experts were searching for several key words in my files. Words “dictatorship”, “European Parliament” and “Jerzy Buzek” were among them. The police did not find any files in relation to the case they are investigating, but managed to find, for instance about 3,500 files containing a word “dictatorship”,“ Natallia Radzina said after her interrogation was over.
According to Ms. Radzina, the interrogator asked her a lot about details of activity of Charter“97 web site. In particular, the police officer was curious to learn if the journalist is paid salary for working for the web site and how it is administered. So, the journalist is sure that the investigation of the criminal case is used as a pretext for learning who actually works for one of the most popular independent web site in Belarus.
”I think this is illegal, because activities of the web site have nothing to do with the investigation of the criminal case. I regard it as political persecution of independent journalists on the eve of presidential elections,” Natallia Radzina stated.
“Unfortunately, neither protests from independent journalistic community inside the country, nor international reaction to the facts of searches, interrogations and confiscation of journalistic equipment of well-known Belarusian journalists have put an end to this repressive mechanism,” Andrei Aliaksandrau, Vice Chairperson of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, commented. “We still regard such actions in relation to our colleagues as having no necessary legal grounds. This is nothing but interfering in professional activities of journalists and another attempt to suppress independent voices inside of the country. I believe this is just the right time to show our professional solidarity. I call on my colleagues to pay special attention to this case and to support members of our organization who face persecution.”
The investigative actions in relation to the four Belarusian journalists are connected to the so-called “Huniting Case.” It deals with four high-ranked police officers who allegedly organized illegal hunting and tried to put illegal pressure on officers of the KGB (State Security Committee). Three of them were found guilty. Earlier, one of the KGB officers appealed against relatives of the accused for slander. That appeal gave the grounds for searches of the three journalists“ apartments and offices.
17 February the police conducted a search in the editorial office of Narodnaya Volia newspaper and confiscated a computer of Deputy Editor Maryna Koktysh.
26 February Representatives of law enforcement agencies searched a private apartment of Sviatlana Kalinkina, the Chief Editor of Narodnaya Volia.
3 March Iryna Khalip, a well-known Belarusian journalist and a member of BAJ, and her husband Andrei Sannikau, a leader of European Belarus Civil Campaign, were also interrogated by the police on the same case.
During the day of 16 March 2010 the police conducted a series of searches in working premises and private apartments of several Belarusian journalists and civil activists in Minsk. Their equipment was confiscated, and Natallia Radzina stated excessive force was used against her.
22 March the Board of the Belarusian Association of Journalists adopted a special statement about the case. BAJ considers the police searches and interrogations of the colleagues as a part of a special operation, directed against independent journalism in Belarus.