Attacks on independent media in Belarus continue. On Tuesday, 22 December, Press Club Belarus founder Yulia Slutskaya was detained at Minsk Airport, her apartment was searched. Raids also took place at the Press Club office and apartments of several employees. Later in the day, at least four of them were reportedly detained for 72 hours.
Security forces searched the apartment of the Press Club Program Director Alla Sharko. Journalists who came to her flat were detained and lawyer Sergei Zikratsky was not allowed into the flat. A village house of the Press Club Director Sergei Olshevsky was searched too, his father reported.
According to a TUT.BY source, the searches took place as part of a criminal case under Art. 243 part 2 (Evasion of taxes on an especially large scale). After them, the detainees were taken to the Financial Investigation Department for interrogation. Among the detainees are Press Club Belarus founder Yulia Slutskaya, Press Club Program Director Alla Sharko, Press Club Director Sergei Olshevsky and Program Director of the Press Club Academy Sergei Yakupov.
The Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee declined to comment on the matter, however, it reported to state media sources that the agency is conducting “an investigation into the facts of violations of the tax legislation of the Republic of Belarus in relation to officials of the cultural and educational institution ‘Journalistic Workshop Press Club’ and other business entities, including receipt of large sums of money from abroad”.
Press Club Belarus is part of an international network of press clubs that provide a platform for professional growth of the media community. Press Club Belarus arranges educational lectures and seminars for journalists, as well as conducts research. Yulia Slutskaya is a well-known Belarusian media manager, for many years she was the chief editor of the Belarusian “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper, and then the chief editor of “Euroradio”.