For several days in a row, the morning of Belarusian independent journalists begins not with coffee, but with searches. It is particularly evident in the Brest region. Searches were carried out in the editorial office of the newspaper “Hantsavitski Chas”, in the editorial office and employees’ homes of “Media-Palesie”, “Intex-press”, in the editorial office of the Luninets site “Inform-progulka”, in the house of the editors of the site “First Region”, in the administrator of Virtual Brest ”Andrei Kukharchyk and journalist Maksim Khliabets and many others.
“A search was carried out in the editor’s house, equipment was confiscated in the editorial office: photo cameras, video cameras, all media, even disks, which probably no one has used for a long time,” says the journalist of “Media-Palesie” Maxim Harda.
The only and most important thing left in the editorial office of Media-Palesie is journalists. Searches of the newspaper’s employees in Luninets and Pinsk were carried out as part of the “Terrorism Act” criminal case.
Searches with equipment confiscation were carried out at the place of an Onliner.by journalist Anastasiya Zanko and Hlybokaye journalist Tatsyana Smotkina. Information gathering and repression analysis are partially hampered by the non-disclosure pledge signed by the journalists after searches or interrogations in criminal cases.
“All forms of pressure available to the Belarusian security forces are used against journalists to clean up the media sector and to prevent the alternative point of view of propaganda from being interrupted by anyone,” the BAJ lawyer Aleh Aheyeu explains.
According to Nasha Niva, their editor-in-chief Yahor Martsinovich was beaten during the detention, suffering a head injury. He was not given either a mattress or bed linen in the remand prison in the Akrestsina Street jail and was fed only a few days after his detention. The wife of another Nasha Niva employee detained yesterday, Andrei Skurko, spoke about a search of their house.
Two freelance journalists cooperating with Belsat were not released after interrogation. Vital Skryl and Zmitser Lupach were detained for 72 hours the other day as part of a criminal case.
“Anyone can be taken away at any moment and put in jail. We know how many journalists are in prison now, including our Dasha and Katsya, who were sentenced to 2 years in prison each. Nobody is protected from this in Belarus,” Belsat deputy director Alyaksei Dzikavitski thinks.
Journalist and blogger Alyaksandr Ivulin has been charged in a criminal article for allegedly organizing group actions that violate public order. He was detained for 2 months.
“At the moment, a large-scale operation is being carried out as part of the investigation to clean up radicals. Immediate investigative actions are being carried out, including searches and detentions. In the course of this, each participant’s involvement in the crime will be verified, ” Kanstantsin Bychak, a representative of the KGB Investigation Department of Belarus, said.
The telegram channel “Hrodna.Life” has been recognized as extremist. The channel found messages “aimed at inciting social and political hatred.”
Over the course of 2 days, security officers conducted at least 23 searches of journalists. A total of 32 media representatives are in captivity. And the numbers are increasing. After lunch, the police came to the editor of Homiel’s “Motsnyia Naviny” Iryna Volskaya with a search warrant.
The official representative of the European External Action Service Peter Stan called the repression of independent media in Belarus a complete insult not only to freedom of expression but also to our country’s responsibilities at the UN and the OSCE.
Iryna Karniyenka, Belsat