An attack on media: the authorities opened a criminal case against TUT.BY; the head of the Union of Poles rejected a freedom offer conditional on further deportation; 10 to 15 days of administrative arrest for a bike ride
18 May 2021 | Voice of Belarus
The authorities attacked the most visited online media portal in Belarus by opening a criminal case against it
Belarusian authorities have completely blocked the TUT.BY portal – the leading media outlet in the country. The editorial office, regional offices and homes of the portal’s journalists were raided by security forces.
The State Control Committee of Belarus announced that a criminal case had been initiated against TUT BY MEDIA leadership under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code (large-scale tax evasion).
Since 2019 TUT.BY has been registered as a resident of the Belarus Hi-Tech Park, making it eligible for some tax exemptions. Yet, the Belarusian authorities allege that the media company obtained revenue from the activities that residents are prohibited from, and that caused damage to the Belarusian state on an especially large scale.
14 people were detained, including the editor-in-chief Maryna Zolatava, general director, and chief accountant.
In addition to the TUT.BY employees, people who are not related to the economic activities of the portal were detained as well: Darya Danilava, CEO of Rocket Data and Sergey Povalishev, CEO and founder of hoster.by. Security forces officers also came to Yuliya Charniauskaya, the widow of the TUT.BY founder Yuri Zisser and co-owner of hoster.by. After that Yuliya ended up in a hospital with a hypertensive crisis. Currently, her whereabouts are unknown.
TUT.BY is the oldest Internet portal in the country with the largest audience. It is visited monthly by about 20 million unique users. In 2019, the website was visited by 62% of all Belarusian internet users. TUT.BY data were actively used by media from Russia and other countries.
Amnesty International stated that the blocking of the TUT.by website is a full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Belarus.
The head of the Union of Poles rejected a freedom offer conditional on further deportation
Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, director of the Belsat channel, said that the detained head of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andżelika Borys had been offered a deal: she would be released if she consented to deportation from Belarus to Poland. However, Ms. Borys declined.
In total, five representatives of the Union of Poles were detained: Andżelika Borys, Andrzej Poczobut, Maria Tiszkowska, Irena Biernacka, and Hanna Panishava (Anna Paniszewa). A criminal case was opened against them under Part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement to racial and national hatred). The defendants face 5 to 12 years in prison.
Polish educational centers are also under pressure: they were raided, and the Polish school in Brest was liquidated.
Polish authorities accuse Belarusian officials of persecuting Poles on ethnic grounds.
10 to 15 days of arrest for a bike ride
On 16 May 2021, members of the Minsk Fixed Gear community decided to open a cycling season at one of the Minsk reservoirs, but were detained by police. One of the detainees was wearing a T-shirt with the sign “AntiLukashenko”.
At the trial, it became known that all the detainees were charged with participation in an unauthorized mass event. Ten detainees received 10 to 15 days of administrative arrest. Cyclists claim that they were going to open the cycling season, did not shout slogans, and did not have any protest symbols with them.