Maryna Zolatava, editor-in-chief of the TUT.BY media outlet, has spoken out on the subject of the special services’ co-opting Belarusian journalists.
“On August 7, much changed in my life and in the lives of my colleagues. Now we are learning how to live, work and communicate after we got a new status – that of suspects,” she said on Facebook.
According to Zolatava, no one has ever tried to recruit her.
“For some unknown reason, many people believe that the BelTA case is over. But it was just the beginning. It is unclear when and how it will be finished. And we, as before, write articles, smile, joke… and appear for questioning one after another. The investigation is in progress,” she said.
On August 7, an unprecedented wave of media workers’ arrests started in Belarus.
After Iryna Akulovich, Director of the state-run news agency BelTA, had reported ‘illegal access to their premium content’, the Belarusian Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case under the article ‘unauthorized access to computer information, made out of personal interest, which caused significant harm’. According to the authorities’ version, some employees of the above-mentioned media outlets have used another person’s password and got information owned by the Lukashenka mouthpiece over the past two years.
Tut.by journalists Halina Ulasik, Maryna Zolatava, Hanna Kaltyhina, Ulyana Babayed, Dzmitry Bobryk, Hanna Yermachonak, BelaPAN editors Tatsyana Karavyankova, Iryna Leushyna and Andrey Serada, Deutsche Welle correspondent Paulyuk Bykouski and the Belarusians and Market journalist Alyaksei Zhukau were detained. Later Bobryk, Serada and Babayed were released. As part of the case, four journalists of the property portal realt.by were interrogated.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists called the situation a ‘flagrant violation of freedom of expression and media freedom’. According to the BAJ, the actions of law enforcement agencies were ‘excessive’.
A few days later, all the journalists were released from custody, but they are still under gag order. All the suspects in the BelTA case are banned from leaving the country.
As reported earlier, Dzmitry Bobryk wrote that after a three-hour interrogation in the Investigative Committee on August 7, he signed a cooperation agreement. According to him, there were direct threats to him and his relatives. However, after law enforcers realized they would get no information. their pressure on him intensified, Bobryk claims.