August 7 Investigation Committee of Belarus spread information on the launch of a criminal case under Article 349 Part 2 of the Belarus Criminal Code (unauthorized access to computer information, made out of personal interest that caused significant damage). The police arresed journalists Maryna Zolatava, Hanna Kaltyhina, Halina Ulasik, Ulyana Babayed (Tut.by) and Tatsiana Karavenkova (BelaPAN). We know of detentions of several more journalists.
The newsrooms of Belarus largest web portal, the only independent news agency, and Navuka newspaper are being searched. Journalists can not access their working places, and that creates obstacles in the work of Tut.by and BelaPAN.
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 on 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.
We call for the immediate release of the detainees and ensuring access of other Tut.by and BelaPAN to their working places.
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian PEN Centre
Office for the rights of people with disabilities