The pressure on independent journalists and editors in Belarus is rising. The “BelTA case” is one of many instances.
REcently, the prosecution charged the BelaPAN Chief Editor Iryna Leushyna, the correspondent of “Deutsche Welle” in Minsk Paulyuk Bykowski, editor Halina Ulasik. All of them signed the document restricting their travel and urging appropriate behavior. The official damage figures for each of them varies from 3 to 17 thousand rubles.
The case began when clients of the state information agency BelTA allegedly noticed failures to accessing its paid subscription. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case. On August 7-9, in the offices of the BelaPAN, TUT.by portal and other media were searched with the confiscation of media. The searches also took place in the private homes of the defendants. Journalists and editors were detained for several days and had forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
The presumption of innocence and the fact that guilt had not been proven, as there was no court yet, did not stop the government propagandists. The representative of the Investigative Committee stated to the UN Committee on Human Rights that “the BelTA case” is no more than a “banal hacking” case.
Not only the editorial boards were put under pressure. Operational and Analytical Center under the President excluded HOSTER.BY from the list of Internet services’ sellers for officials. Its main shareholder is the founder of TUT.bay Yury Zisser.
Another serious blow to the work of the independent media came in the form of draconian amendments to the Law on Mass Media, which will take effect next month.
According to EU officials, US and international human rights defenders, this attack on the independent media harms not only us and our colleagues. This is an attempt on the right of citizens to receive accurate information independently.
Volha Czajczyc, belsat.eu