BelaPAN chief editor and ex-director face up to 7 years in prison on “extremism” charges
Iryna Leushyna, editor-in-chief of the leading independent news agency BelaPAN, and the outlet’s former director Dzmitry Navazhylau have been charged with “creating an extremist formation,” and face up to 7 years in prison, RFE/RL’s Belarus service said.
On August 18, police raided BelaPAN’s offices and the homes of several key managers and journalists. Leushyna and Navazhylau were arrested for allegedly organizing “mass riots” (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). The Investigative Committee later said that they were accused of “tax evasion” (Article 243 of the Criminal Code), estimating the damage at about 30 thousand euros.
The case also targeted Andrei Aliaksandrau, a journalist and media manager arrested earlier for "financing protests" and "treason". Aliaksandrau provided consulting services to BelaPAN.
BelaPAN is the oldest independent news agency in Belarus. It has been operating since 1991.
In June 2018, the authorities accused BelaPAN of “tax evasion” and in August of the same year, several leading media outlets, including BelaPAN, were charged with stealing subscriptions to the state agency BelTA’s paid newsfeed.
On November 1, 2021, the KGB labeled BelaPAN as an “extremist formation”. The news agency’s logo and name were also blacklisted.
Earlier, a similar “extremist” status was imposed on Belsat, a Poland-based Belarusian-language TV channel.