High-profile media case: Popular news portal editor-in chief heavily fined

Абвешчаны вырак Марыне Золатавай! 7650 руб штрафу + 6 тыс руб – судовыя выдаткі БелТА выплаціць!

Opublikowany przez Белсат TV Poniedziałek, 4 marca 2019

A Minsk court has found Maryna Zolatava, editor-in-chief guilty of inaction of an official and imposed a fine of 7,650 Belarusian rubles (about $3,800).

She will also have to pay legal costs (6,000 rubles) to state-run news ageny BelTA. Zolatava has not decided yet whether she will appeal against the verdict. According to her, as acquittals account for 0.2% of the verdiсts in our country, it may hardly make sense.

“It is a good thing the judge has delivered a more lenient sentence than that requested by the prosecutor. Of course, I did not expect that I would be acquitted, I had no such hope,” Maryna Zolatava stressed.

The woman thanks everyone who has come to support her.

The journalist was charged under Part 2 of Article 425 of the Criminal Code. 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 February, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir pointed out that he continued to closely monitor the trial. According to him, a journalist should in no way be prevented from continuing their important work.

“Conviction and fining of Maryna Zolatava, editor of Tut.by, along with disproportionate measures of law enforcement against Belapan and Tut.by agencies in 2018, may exert chilling effect on independent media in Belarus,” Désir said on Twitter on March, 4.

Суд над Марынай Золатавай.

Стрым! Сёння агучаць прысуд галоўнай рэдактарцы TUT.BY Марыне Золатавай.Пракурор запрасіў штраф у 10 000 еўра, абвінавачаная лічыць, што ў яе дзеяннях няма складу злачынства.https://naviny.belsat.eu/news/sud-nad-marynayu-zolatavaj-strym-a-12-00/

Opublikowany przez Белсат TV Poniedziałek, 4 marca 2019

State-run news agency BelTA and SB Belarus Segodnya Publishing House have been the plaintiffs. According to the statement of prosecution, the losses BelTA suffered amounted to 52,320 Belarusian rubles; SB – 18,172. During the period from January 4, 2017 to July 23, 2018 Zolatava was not performing her duties ‘by intent’, which made the crime possible; Zolatava did not prevent her colleagues from ‘misusing a username and password’ to BelTA premium content, the prosecutor stated. The username and the password are reported to have belonged to the newspaper Respublika.

The editor-in chief did not admit her guilt, “I believe that my actions do not constitute a crime,” she said.

It should be recalled that an unprecedented wave of media workers’ arrests started in Belarus in August, 2018.

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’.

КА, belsat.eu