The editor in chief of Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda has criticized the Belarusian authorities’ move to block the website of the popular newspaper’s Belarus edition over an interview with a former classmate of a Minsk man who was killed during Tuesday’s raid by Committee for State Security (KGB) officers on his apartment.
Andrej Zieĺcer, a 31-year-old IT worker, is believed to have fatally wounded a KGB officer before being shot dead inside his apartment.
In the interview, which was posted on the website on Tuesday night, a woman who went to school together with Mr. Zieĺcer described him as a good person who “always stood up for truth.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Vladimir Sungorkin defended the interview, which he said contained a couple of innocuous phrases, and condemned the blocking of the site as a politically motivated decision.
Belarus’ authorities believe that “only state media outlets” can operate in the country and are pursuing a “tough policy to take full control of the media,” said Mr. Sungorkin.
According to the journalist, the interview was available on the website for three minutes before an editor decided to further tone it down for fear of possible penalties from the government. Mr. Sungorkin said that the publication was being accused of “whitewashing a criminal.”
The journalist expressed fears that a criminal case may be opened in connection with the interview. “It’s a great shame that this story can no longer be accessed, as, if it were available, anyone could read it and become strongly surprised at the reason for shutting down the biggest news site in Belarus,” he said.
The Belarus edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda has been unable to print its issues in Belarus since the eruption of post-election street protests in August 2020. It is no longer distributed by Belarus’ postal operator, Bielpošta, to subscribers and is not available at state-run newspaper kiosks.