Hrodna: Riot police raid offices of popular media outlets over ‘extremism’

OMON riot policemen at HrodnaLife office. Hrodna, 29 January 2021. Photo: Белсат

On Friday morning, OMON made an unexpected visit to the editorial offices of the popular news portals and According to the local police department, the two websites posted ‘extremist’ materials.

“The police of Hrodna region will never accept any extremism! And today’s events do confirm that. While monitoring the Internet, employees of Leninski district department of Interior discovered the facts of and news resources’ having products recognised as extremist. The case is holding the materials of a Telegram channel which was recognised as extremist by Tsentralny district court of Minsk in October-November,” the press service reports, apparently referring to media products made by NEXTA. They might have been shared by the two news portals.

Holding the information added to the ‘extremism’ list is punishable by a fine of up to 500 basic units (14,500 rubles) and confiscation of ‘crime instruments’, i.e. computer equipment, under Art. 17.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

As part of the administrative case launched, local police officers seconded by OMON riot policemen searched the offices of and and seized their equipment (pendrives, laptops, cameras, a drone) for further examination. In the course of the search, the journalists were banned from taking photos and videos; the raiders threatened that photographing and filming could be considered as disobedience to the police. editor Ihar Remzik was interrogated; his computer was taken away from the flat.

HrodnaLife office after search. Photo: Belsat

In mid August, the Belarusian Interior Ministry initiated a criminal case under Article 293 of the Criminal Code against Stsyapan Putsila (better known as NEXTA, НЕХТА). The blogger faces up to 15 years in jail for organising ‘mass riots, accompanied by violence against an individual, pogroms, arson, destruction of property or armed resistance to representatives of the authorities’, as well as for ‘training or other preparation of persons to participate in such riots, as well as financing or other material support of such activities’. According to the Belarusian authorities’ version, NEXTA was steering and controlling the protests in Belarus via his channels on the web.

On October 20, the authorities recognised Telegram channel NEXTA Live and its logo as extremist materials. On November 5, the Investigative Committee issued a resolution on the involvement of the creators of TG channel NEXTA Stsyapan Putsila and Raman Pratasevich as defendants in the case of mass riots (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code). Later, the both men were included in the list of persons involved in terrorist activities.

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