Minsk: Raid on office of independent news agency BelaPAN

Investigators’ vehicle not far from BelaPAN office. Minsk, 14 January, 2021.
Photo: Belsat.eu

Uniformed people entered the editorial office in Minsk at about 12:10, BelaPAN journalist Tatsyana Bublikava said on Facebook.

The search was being conducted by the Belarusian Investigative Committee as part of the probe into the criminal case initiated against Belarusian media expert Andrey Alyaksandrau. According to the unexpected visitors, they were looking for any items and documents that may bear upon the case.

BelaPAN director Dzmitry Navazhylau who had reportedly been at wark since morning was not answering the telephone. Lawyer Syarhei Zikratski was not let into the office, because ‘the search had already started’, the officers told him.

BelaPAN office after search. Minsk, 14 January 2021.
Photo: belsat.eu
BelaPAN office after search. Minsk, 14 January 2021.
Photo: belsat.eu

A few days ago, Andrey Alyaksandrau was detained as a suspect under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’). Now he is being held in the notorious detention centre on Akrestsin Street in Minsk. In 2009-2012, Alyaksandrau was deputy chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. In 2015-2018, the journalist was deputy director of BelaPAN news agency.

At the very beginning of the raid, Tatsyana Bublikava became sick; paramedics took her to Minsk City Hospital #1. Two policemen insisted on their being in attendance.

“I was sitting and working at my computer when suddenly someone shouted very loudly: “Get away from computers!’ Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch your phones!” she recalls.

BelaPAN office after search. Minsk, 14 January 2021.
Photo: belsat.eu
BelaPAN director Dzmitry Navazhylau. Minsk, 14 January 2021.
Photo: belsat.eu

The investigative group did not want the information about the search to be announced anywhere, the woman stressed.

“When the ambulance arrived, I was having my heart’s work examined, but a policeman was keeping watch over me all the time to be sure of my not phoning anyone <…> The doctors suggested that I should be hospitalised. The investigators gave their consent, but they told me to leave all my things, including my mobile phone, in the office,” Bublikava said.

(UPD) At about 15:30 the search was over, BelaPAN editor-in-chief Iryna Leushyna informed. None of the agency’s contributors was detained, but two mini laptops, about a dozen hard drives of office computers, documents were seized.

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