Picks of the week
The sweeping and clearly disproportionate crackdown on independent journalists that started on August 7 and briefly paralyzed the work of the country’s leading news portal, tut.by, and the only private news agency, BelaPAN, has been making both national and international headlines during the week.
Nearly 20 journalists have been affected by the actions of the Investigative Committee, which detained and questioned reporters and editors, violating their procedural rights, raided newsrooms and private apartments. All this was aggravated by smear campaigns in government-owned media, which already label the journalists “thieves.”
As of August 11, all the detained journalists are free, after the last two of them, Deutsche Welle reporter Pauliuk Bykouski and BelaPAN editor-in-chief Iryna Leushyna, were released last evening.
However, the charges have not been dropped, with at least one of the journalists, tut.by chief editor Maryna Zolatava, facing an additional charge of “official negligence” (Part 2, Art. 425 of the Criminal Code), after she reportedly admitted that she was aware of her subordinates’ illegal using of BelTA logins and passwords.
Meanwhile, journalists in Belarus face daily harassment, including administrative and criminal charges.
On August 9, a court in Minsk fined Belsat reporter Katsiaryna Andreyeva and cameraman Siarhei Kavaliou a total of 980 rubles for covering a protest near the Kurapaty memorial.
Tamara Shchapiotkina, a freelancer in Biaroza working with Radio Racyja, faces new administrative charges and is likely to stand her fourth trial in four weeks.
On August 8, police in Biaroza detained blogger Aliaksandr Kabanau, after a criminal investigation was opened into an alleged insult of a police officer. The blogger’s house was searched. Kabanau was later released, but the investigation is still underway.
Earlier, similar charges were brought against another critical blogger Siarhei Piatrukhin.