Popular media outlet TUT.BY in crosshairs: Raids on offices, journos’ homes, website blocked

On Tuesday morning, security officers have descended upon the offices of tut.by and hoster.by, as well as to editors’ places.

According to the information provided by the Belarusian authorities, a criminal case has been launched against TUTBY Media company officials under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code (‘large-scale tax evasion’).

“In 2019, TUTBY Media was granted the status of a resident of the High Technology Park Belarus (HTP). According to the Department of Financial Investigations, the company received income not from the activities allowed for HTP residents,” state-run news agency BelTA quotes the State Control Committee.

As a result of TUTBY Media’s using the above mentioned status, the state has sustained hefty losses, the committee’s press service stressed.

Representatives of the Department of Financial Investigations (a unit of the Belarusian State Control Committee) made unexpected visits to several employees, including editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava, TUT.BY reports. Trying to get into her flat, officers broke down a door, eyewitnesses say (see photos above). The journalists who are now in the office are not answering phone calls.

The domain of the portal has been blocked by the authorities, TUT.BY co-founder Kiryl Valoshyn says.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office has established numerous facts of violating the law on mass media in terms of posting prohibited information in a number of publications on tut.by. These materials contain information for account of the unregistered BYSOL foundation,the Belarusian Information Ministry said on Tuesday.

The glass door of the TUT.BY office in Minsk have been covered with black polyethylene foil or even painted from inside. But one can see an officer sitting at the entrance.

Employees of Financial Investigations Department in TUT.by office in Minsk.
Photo: Belsat
Employees of Financial Investigations Department in TUT.by office in Minsk.
Photo: Belsat

Some journalists and photographers working for non-state media (Darya Burakina, Alyaksandr Charnukha, Artsyom Mayorau) who earlier arrived there to get more information about the situation are being out of reach at the moment.

It is known that uniformed services also came to TUT.BY regional offices in Brest, Vitsebsk, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Homiel as well as to the headquarters of av.by, the biggest Belarusian portal about cars and vehicles.

(UPD) The homes of TUT.BY journalist Alena Talkachova, editors Hanna Rudzenka and Volha Saukiu, IT specialist Vital Kalinouski, deputy editor-in-chief Maksim Haiko have been searched; police officers have seized computer equipment and bank cards.

After the raid, Maryna Zolatava was taken away and driven in an unknown direction, Tut.by reports.

Maryna managed to inform that she, along with TUTBY Media director Lyudmila Chekina and the company’s chief accountant Anzhela Asad, might be charged under Article 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion).

According to human rights centre Viasna, Yuliya Charnyauskaya, the widow of TUT.BY founder Yury Zisser and a well-known Belarusian cultural studies scholar, has been taken to the reception room of Minsk clinical hospital Nr 1; a police officer is keeping a close watch on her even there. The woman is allegedly going through a hypertensive crisis.