The Minsk police have searched the office of BelaPAN, the only independent news agency in Belarus. They have taken editor Andrey Serada for questioning and confiscated six hard disk drives.
As reported earlier, the Minsk police raided the offices of tut.by, one of the biggest media outlets in Belarus, and BelaPAN, the only private news agency in the country, on Tuesday. Computers and documents were seized in the course of the searches.
After Iryna Akulovich, Head of state-controlled 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 and BelaPAN reporter Tatsyana Karavyankova were also detained. Ulasik, Zolatava and Kaltyhina will reportedly have to spend three days behind bars.
“We have been informed about searches and arrests in a number of most prominent Belarusian media. This information is of great concern for the Council of Europe. Moreover, some of those concerned are our long-standing partners well known as high-level professionals. Legislation must be respected but investigations do not always require arrests which should be used as an ultimate tool.
We therefore call on the Belarusian investigative authorities to ensure rapid and transparent investigation. We also call to liberate all the arrested journalists. Freedom of media is one of the most important human rights in a democratic society. It should be thoroughly respected everywhere in Europe,” Daniel Holtgen, Spokesperson for the Secretary General of Council of Europe, said in today’s statement.