On January 11, the Prosecutor-General’s Office has taken case of Maryna Zolatava, chief editor of Belarusian media outlet TUT.BY, to Minsk City Court.
“Today the criminal case on charges of committing a crime under Art. 425-2 of the Criminal Code (failure to act of the person) has been submitted to Minsk City Court for ruling of jurisdiction,” Dzmitry Bryliou, a representative of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, told TUT.BY.
According to the official, the prosecutor found no reason for changing the measure of restraint. As before, the journalist signed a recognisance not to leave the city, but behave properly.
The Office concluded that the charge had been filed on reasonable grounds and supported with the evidence collected.
Earlier, two petitions to dismiss criminal proceedings in the so-called BelTA case were denied.
Maryna Zolatava remains the only accused person in the case. She was charged under Part 2 of Article 425 of the Criminal Code (inaction of an official). The maximum penalty for this article is 5 years in prison. Earlier, she was suspected of ‘unauthorized access to computer information’ (part 2 of article 349 of the Criminal Code), but then the prosecution under this article was stopped ‘in connection with a crime that had not been committed’.
In late November, it became known that the criminal prosecution of BelaPAN Chief Editor Iryna Leushyna was stopped. Shortly before, the Investigation Committee granted the petitions of journalists Ulyana Babayed and Tatsyana Karavenkava to replace criminal charges with administrative liability. The Investigative Committee also granted the same requests from the Deutsche Welle correspondent Paulyuk Bykouski and the editor of the Realt.by portal Uladzislau Kuletski. Now the journalists are in the status of witnesses; most of them are facing heavy fines.
It should be recalled that an unprecedented wave of media workers’ arrests started in Belarus on August 7.
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. 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. As part of the case, four journalists of the property portal realt.by were interrogated. 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 claimed.
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’.