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  • The IFJ/EFJ condemn Police raid on independent media agencies

    Міжнародная і Еўрапейская федэрацыі журналістаў (IFJ / EFJ) падтрымала заклікі сябра-арганізацыі Беларускай асацыяцыі журналістаў (БАЖ) неадкладна вызваліць групу журналістаў, затрыманую пасля рэйдаў Следчага камітэта.

    The Inter­na­tion­al and Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tions of Jour­nal­ists (IFJ/EFJ) backed calls by their affil­i­ate the Belaru­sian Union of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ), to imme­di­ate­ly release a group of jour­nal­ists detained fol­low­ing police raids.

    On 7 August 2018 in Min­sk, the news­rooms of Tut.By, Belarus largest web por­tal, and Bela­PAN, pri­vate news agency, were searched by the police look­ing for infor­ma­tion about the alleged unlaw­ful access­ing of infor­ma­tion from the state news agency’s web­site BelTA.

    Dur­ing the raid, jour­nal­ists were banned from access­ing their work­ing places, lap­tops were seized and sev­er­al employ­ees were sum­moned for inter­ro­ga­tion. Accord­ing to media reports, the police also searched Navu­ka (Sci­ence) news­pa­per, Agri­cul­ture mag­a­zine and an eco­nom­ic week­ly on Wednes­day 8 August.

    Tut.by and Bela­Pan jour­nal­ists are accused of access­ing BelTA’s con­tent restrict­ed to suscribers (state news agency) with logins and pass­words oth­er than their own. The Inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee claimed to have uncov­ered 15,000 instances of unau­tho­rised access: “The crime inflict­ed con­sid­er­able dam­age on BelTA, lead­ing to the ille­gal pro­cure­ment and use of infor­ma­tion pro­tect­ed from unau­tho­rised access, as well as to the ero­sion of the enterprise’s busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion,” the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee said. Jour­nal­ists claim they only used infor­ma­tion open to the pub­lic.

    Access to BelTA’s dis­patch­es are freely acces­si­ble 15 min­utes after sub­scribers see them. If found guilty, the jour­nal­ists face up to two years in prison.

    The Belaru­sian Union of Jour­nal­ists report­ed that 9 jour­nal­ists were detained on 7 August fol­low­ing the raid. Some were released in the evening. By the morn­ing of 8 August, five jour­nal­ists are still being detained: Mari­na Zolo­tov (Tut.by edi­tor in chief); Anna Kolty­gin (Tut.by man­ag­ing edi­tor); Gali­na Vla­sic (Tut.by edi­tor); Anna Erma­chenok (Tut.by edi­tor). Tatiana Kar­avenko­va, Bela­PAN cor­re­spon­dent on inter­na­tion­al issues is also being detained for three days. In addi­tion, the police searched the home of sev­er­al jour­nal­ists. A num­ber of jour­nal­ists and their fam­i­ly mem­bers were tak­en for ques­tion­ing.

    “We con­sid­er that a fla­grant vio­la­tion of free­dom of expres­sion and media free­dom. In any case, the actions of law enforce­ment agen­cies seem exces­sive. Inves­ti­ga­tion of crim­i­nal cas­es should not affect the free­dom and pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties of the media. We are espe­cial­ly con­cerned by per­se­cu­tion of the media against the back­ground of sys­tem­at­ic vio­la­tions of the right to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and intim­i­da­tion of jour­nal­ists through pros­e­cu­tion of Bela­PAN founder Alexan­der Lipai and Bel­sat TV jour­nal­ists,” BAJ com­ment­ed in a state­ment.

    BAJ, along with the IFJ and the EFJ, called on the author­i­ties to imme­di­ate­ly release the detainees, ensure access of the jour­nal­ists to their work­ing places and give back the equip­ment seized. Both fed­er­a­tions denounced dis­pro­por­tion­ate and exag­ger­at­ed mea­sures, which might com­pro­mise the jour­nal­ists’ sources.

    The Coun­cil of Europe has called on the Belaru­sian inves­tiga­tive author­i­ties to “ensure rapid and trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion”, and to “lib­er­ate all the arrest­ed jour­nal­ists”.


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