On Wednesday morning, Belarusian security forces made unexpected visits to a number of contributors to the independent news agency BelaPAN, Naviny.by reports.
Journalist Iryna Turchyna, editor Alyaksandr Zaitsau, the company’s accountant Katsyaryna Boyeva managed to inform their colleagues of the raids being conducted.
Iryna Leushyna, BelaPAN editor-in-chief and director, and journalist Zakhar Shcharbakou are not answering their phones at the moment; their Minsk flats are reportedly being searched as well.
(UPD) 10.30. Zakhar Shcharbakou was taken for questioning after the search.
11.00. During the search, seven officers seized equipment (a mobile phone, a hard drive, a computer, an old tablet) and some documents from BelaPAN deputy editor-in-chief Alyaksandr Zaitsau; he has not been detained. The police failed to disclose the journalist’s procedural status to him. According to Zaitsau, the search lasted about an hour; it was made as part of a case initiated under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation of actions that grossly violate public order’). The case is being conducted by the Belarusian Investigative Committee.
11.30. The search of the flat of BelaPAN editor-in-chief Iryna Leushyna is over. She has been taken to the editorial office, where a search is going to take place. Leushyna is expected to be interrogated at the office of the Investigative Committee in Minsk.
12.20. Journalist Iryna Turchyna has been released after interrogation; her mobile phone was seized.
13.30. Accountant Katsyaryna Boyeva has been placed in the detention centre on Akrestsin Street as a suspect under Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code (organiaation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them), her husband says.
13.35. Dzmitry Navazhilau, a former director of BelaPAN, has been taken into custody after being questioned, the family says.
14.30. Zakhar Shcharbakou has been released after interrogation, his wife reports.
15.30. According to her daughter, chief editor Iryna Leushyna has been detained for 72 hours; she is to be put in the detention centre on Akrestsin Street.
In January 2021, the office of BelaPAN was raided. Then the search was carried out by officers of the Minsk department of the Directorate for Combating Economic Crimes as part of the case of the arrested media manager Andrey Alyaksandrau.