Experts worry about pressure on independent press
Detentions of journalists in the case of “unauthorized access to information” of the state news agency BelTA continue in Belarus. On Thursday morning, August 9, it became known that the editor of the independent news agency BelaPAN, Irina Levshina, had been detained. As in the case of the previously detained journalists, a search was carried out in her apartment, the computer system unit was opened..
On Thursday evening, the Investigative Committee reported that after “a complex of urgent investigative and other procedural actions in a criminal case”, it was decided to release Anna Kaltygina, Galina Ulasik, Anna Ermachenok “and other persons involved in the case.”.
Marina Zolotova, editor of the independent portal Tut.by, was also released from custody. According to the information published by the Investigative Committee, she “admitted that, with her knowledge, for a long time, the employees of the limited liability company illegally used the details of access to the paid subscription of RUE“ BelTA ””.
On the night from Thursday to Friday it became known about the release of BelaPAN journalist Tatyana Korovenkova.
At the time of publication, the editor of the BelaPAN agency Irina Levshina and media expert and freelance journalist Pavel Bykovsky remain in the temporary detention center (IVS).
The founder of the Tut.by portal, Yuri Zisser, who was also interrogated by the Investigative Committee the day before, is sure that the OMON raids and searches in editorial offices are a continuation of the repressions against the independent press..
“Nobody believes that the issue is access to BelTA,” Yuriy Zisser told Voice of America. “In fact, there is an attack on independent media, and this access is only a pretext for reprisals against unwanted journalists.”.
According to the founder of Tut.by, even if there was a violation of the rules of access, this reason is not worthy of such “media coverage” by the state media..
“The bacchanalia that was played out in the state media, on television and in newspapers, and all this“ maxi-show ”held by the Investigative Committee, testifies to the fact that they are trying to artificially inflate this case to some cosmic scale comparable to some then by high-profile corruption cases, to create the impression among the people that the state is struggling with something, or to present the work of law enforcement agencies in some particularly favorable light, “Zisser believes..
This opinion is shared by media expert Andrey Alexandrov: “All information was practically available in open form. The accusations (against journalists – ed.) Are quite absurd, since the article under which colleagues are accused or suspected refers to cyber terrorism. ” “It is clear that none of these journalists hacked into BelTA’s computer system, and even more so it is not clear how they could have caused significant harm to the state news agency,” Aleksandrov commented on the situation for Voice of America..
According to the media expert, this is not the first time that journalists have been under the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies. It is quite possible, Aleksandrov believes, that the pressure on journalists is connected with the upcoming large political campaigns: parliamentary and presidential elections. The fact that two editorial offices of the most important independent online publications were actually hit can be regarded as “a reminder to all of us who controls the situation in the country,” the expert said..
The actions of the Belarusian authorities caused a negative reaction from the West. On Wednesday, the head of the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress, Senator Roger Wicker, called on the authorities to release the detained journalists, stressing that “residents of Belarus have the right to know what exactly is happening in their country”.
“The fact that President Lukashenko deliberately harasses independent news agencies infringes upon the rights of the entire population. The Belarusian authorities must release the detained journalists and stop their persecution, ”said Senator Wicker.