The office of property website realt.by has been raided on Wednesday morning.
The search was conducted by the Investigative Committee, computers and laptops were seized, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reports.
At the moment, four employees – Ihar Khmara, Uladzislau Kuletski, Maryia Saroka and Alena Maslouskaya – are waiting for being interrogated by the investigators.
Moreover, Alyaksei Zhukau, a journalist working for the Agriculture journal and contributor to the Belarusians and Market newspaper, has also been detained over the BelTA case.
Detaining Alyaksei Zhukau, photo by reform.by
On August 7, an unprecedented wave of media workers’ arrests started in Belarus.
After Iryna Akulovich, Head of state-controlled news agency BelTA, had reported ‘illegal access to their premium content’, the Belarusian Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case under the article ‘unauthorized access to computer information, made out of personal interest, which caused significant harm’. According to the authorities’ version, some employees of the above-mentioned media outlets have used another person’s password and got information owned by the Lukashenka mouthpiece over the past two years.
Tut.by journalists Halina Ulasik, Maryna Zolatava, Hanna Kaltyhina, Ulyana Babayed, Dzmitry Bobryk, Hanna Yermachonak and BelaPAN editors Tatsyana Karavyankova and Andrey Serada were also detained. Later Bobryk, Serada and Babayed were released, but the rest will reportedly have to spend three days (72 hours) behind bars.
“We have been informed about searches and arrests in a number of most prominent Belarusian media. This information is of great concern for the Council of Europe. Moreover, some of those concerned are our long-standing partners well known as high-level professionals. Legislation must be respected but investigations do not always require arrests which should be used as an ultimate tool. We therefore call on the Belarusian investigative authorities to ensure rapid and transparent investigation. We also call to liberate all the arrested journalists. Freedom of media is one of the most important human rights in a democratic society. It should be thoroughly respected everywhere in Europe,” Daniel Holtgen, Spokesperson for the Secretary General of Council of Europe, said in his statement.
On Wednesday morning, the Investigative Committee officers have come to the place of media expert and Deutsche Welle correspondent Paulyuk Bykouski.