Anyone who shared the TUT.by news on social networks can be punished if the decision comes into force.
On August 13, Minsk Central District Court considered a summons from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus and recognized the information products of TUT.by and Zerkalo.io portals as “extremist materials,” writes Zerkalo.io.
Both the content of the sites and posts on Telegram, TikTok, Twitter, Viber, OK.ru, and Vk.ru and logos of TUT.by and Zerkalo.io were recognized as ‘extremist.’
The Interior Ministry’s explanation about Zerkalo.io was as follows:
“On the Internet resource Zerkalo.io, journalists of the TUT.by team continue information pressure aimed at posting information with a bias to discredit the state authorities.
Information is presented in a one-sided manner, with a negative assessment of the activities of state bodies, where veiled (from a third party) content is generated under the guise of informational messages, creating massive information pressure on subscribers.
There is propaganda of protest activity in society (so-called flash mobs), aimed at forming and supporting protest moods among citizens and destabilizing the public situation in the country.
About TUT.by, the Ministry of Internal Affairs also wrote about “linguistic features of mockery and insult, negative assessment of the activities of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, representatives of state power and certain groups of individuals identified on a professional basis” and that the portal “in a general context, a contrast is made between groups of protesters and other groups, including “the current government,” “law enforcement,” riot police, CEC employees, “pro-government” officials and the like.
The decision has not entered into force; the portals have not been added to the list of “extremist materials.” The leadership of the portals is going to appeal the decision.
If the decision comes into force, anyone who shares news of the portals or even a photo with their logo in social networks or even private messages may be punished. The Belarusian siloviki interpret the law so that they also punish for posts and messages made before the recognition of materials as “extremist.” Under Part 2 Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus, a fine from 290 to 870 rubles can be imposed, as well as arrest and confiscation of equipment which is recognized as “means for committing a crime.”
At the same time, reading Zerkalo.io or TUT.by materials is not prohibited, although law enforcement officers sometimes use subscriptions to “extremist” channels as a reason for detention. It is also not forbidden to give commentary to “extremists.”
The Zerkalo.io portal promises to operate as before:
“We are confident that we are not violating the laws and the claims of the Interior Ministry are unfounded. Zerkalo.io journalists follow the principles of journalism and Belarusian laws.”
Fifteen employees of TUT.by and its affiliated companies, including director Lyudzmila Chekina and editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava, are currently behind bars. The widow of TUT.by founder Yury Zisser is under house arrest. They are suspected of “tax evasion” (part 2 article 243 of the Criminal Code) through the company’s membership in the Hi-Tech Park.
The materials of Belsat and the sports publication Tribuna.com Belarus, the materials of numerous Telegram channels — from popular NEXTA and “Belarus of the brain” to courtyard channels and even chat rooms — have the status of “extremist” in Belarus.