Tue, 23 Apr 2019

Belarusian News Site Editor To Go On Trial

RFE
12 Feb 2019, 16:07 GMT+10

The editor of Belarus's largest independent news site was set to go on trial, following accusations that her publication, and two others have illegally obtained information from a state-run news agency.

The case against Marina Zolotova, editor-in-chief of the website Tut.by, has raised concerns by right advocates, who have warned about growing press restrictions under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

A court in the Belarusian capital Minsk was scheduled to begin preliminary hearings in the case against Zolotova on February 12.

Last August, police officers searched Tut.by's Minsk offices, along with that of another outlet, BelaPan. Several reporters and employees, including Zolotova, were detained.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee later alleged that computers from within the Tut.by and BelaPan offices used an account and password other than their own to access the paid subscriber section of BelTA, the state-run news agency. A third outlet, Belarusskaya Nauka, was also targeted.

The crime inflicted considerable damage on BelTA, leading to the illegal procurement and use of information protected from unauthorized access, as well as to the erosion of the enterprises business reputation, the Committee charged.

In all, 15 people faced charges. However, all except for Zolotova had charges dropped after paying administrative fines and damages.

Zolotova, meanwhile, was hit with new charges of official inaction, a charge comparable to negligence.

She has denied the allegations.

Independent Belarusian media has faced severe restrictions for years under Lukashenka's authoritarian government.

In June, lawmakers passed controversial amendments to the countrys media laws, which media advocates warned would likely to lead to further censorship of the press.

A month later, a journalist was sentenced to four years of restricted movement and forced labor after being convicted of assaulting two police officers. The reporter, Dzmitry Halko, said the case against him was retribution for his critical stance against Lukashenka.

Other Belarusian journalists and bloggers have been harassed and detained, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service

RFE/RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 25 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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