Maryna Zolatava, chief editor of Belarusian portal TUT.BY, was denied her appeal about the termination of criminal prosecution on 30 November. She remains the only defendant in the BelTA case.
The BelTA case is the ongoing prosecution against editors and journalists of a number of independent Belarusian media accused of unauthorized access to BelTA’s, the state news agency, computer information.
The chief editor of TUT.BY had earlier filed an appeal about the termination of criminal prosecution based on Article 86 of the Criminal Code (exemption from criminal liability with drawing a person to administrative liability – note BelarusFeed). Zolatava’s appeal was denied, the head of the investigation team told her.
Maryna Zolatava now has one month to review the case file. Then the editor can file the appeal again.
Thus, Zolotova remains the only defendant in the criminal case known as the BelTA case. TUT.BY chief editor is charged under Part 2 of Article 425 of the Criminal Code (inaction of an official – note BelarusFeed). The penalty under this article ranges from a fine to five years in prison.
The criminal charges for the other 14 journalists and editors of various media in the case have been replaced with administrative liability. In addition to fines, journalists were required to pay damages, with sums varying from 3 to 17 thousand Belarusian rubles.
The BelTA Case
Law enforcement officers searched offices of TUT.BY and BelaPAN news agencies, homes of journalists on 7 and 8 August. They seized computers and documents and detained several journalists for questioning.
The journalists and reporters spent several days in temporary detention facilities. On August 27, the majority of the suspects were banned from leaving the country, pending an investigation.
International organizations, human rights activists, local authorities and the foreign media expressed their concern and condemned detentions. The European Union (EU) called on the official Minsk to free journalists, stressing that such actions are in contradiction with Belarus’ international commitments.
TUT.BY and BelaPAN are among the major Belarusian non-state media.