TUT.BY vs BelTA. Loudest Criminal Case Against Media In Belarus LIVE

The trial of Marina Zolotova, the editor-in-chief of TUT.BY, has started on 12 February in Minsk. For the first time in the modern history of Belarus, the editor-in-chief is charged for professional activity.

No more witnesses will be questioned today. The court proceeds to study the written submissions on the case. The hearing will continue on Wednesday, 13 February.

Oksana Kirilchik, the first deputy general director of BelTA, is now questioned.

“Time defines the news agency. The news does not live long, there are rankings who published it first. The rankings help readers to decide whose site is more attractive. “

Irina Akulovich: “All journalists are well aware that today it is important to be first, and then there is work on the Internet – Google and Yandex index news. It brings money, affects site traffic, and advertising.”

She explains that information at a paid subscription sections appears earlier than on the site, it is easily copied, and updates are clearly visible.

The hearing continues, the next witness is BelTA’s Director-General Irina Akulovich.

Irina Akulovich, the head of BelTA

BelTA’s contracts with customers didn’t indicate responsibility for the transfer of username and password. They also didn’t limit the number of people who could use one login and password.

“Logins and passwords for a paid subscription could not be transferred to other people,” this was explained to the customers orally. Why this was not articulated in a contact, BelTA’s employee couldn’t explain.

If BelTA’s subscriber lost the password, he could call and ask for help. A new password was sent to him by fax.

BelTA’s technical specialist: “No hacking has been detected, all access was carried out by login and password.”

BelTA charged 3,550 BYN from TUT.BY for additional technical work. BelTA’s technical specialist cannot explain how the sum was determined.

The judge asks several people to leave the room.

The examination of witnesses starts. The first is BelTA‘s technical specialist. He describes his responsibilities and explains how the paid subscriber section of the website works.

Marina Zolotova pleads not guilty.

BelTA damages are voiced – 52.320 BYN (~$24,176).

The essence of the accusation: in two years TUT.BY employees illegally accessed BelTA materials over a hundred times. Marina Zolotova was supposed to prevent it or provide a subscription.

The court proceeds to judicial investigation. The prosecution is announced.

Journalists of various media sources, the representatives of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, human rights activists Human Constanta, the representatives of the US, France, and Sweden Embassies turned up in the court of Moscow district of Minsk where the so-called BelTA case is considered.

Marina Zolotova was greeted with applause when she appeared in court.

At the start of the trial, the judge Aleksandr Petrash has prohibited video and photo footage of the process supporting the request of the representatives of the BelTA news agency. The defendant’s side did not object against video and photo footage.

Aleksandr Petrash, the judge in BelTA case

Prosecutor Julia Kharcheikina

The representative of the U.S Embassy in Minsk


Why is it important?

The loudest ongoing media case in the country is the so-called BelTA case. Last August, at least 15 journalists from independent news outlets were arrested and detained,  their homes were searched.

Police also searched the offices of TUT.BYBelaPAN and other media outlets, they seized computers and documents. International organizations, human rights activists, local authorities and foreign media expressed their concern and condemned journalists detentions.

The Europen Union (EU) called on Minsk to free journalists, stressing that such actions are in contradiction with Belarus’ international commitments. The American, British, Swedish and Lithuanian diplomats visited TUT.BY to talk to its founder Yury Zisser, and express their support.

The detainees were accused of illegally accessing the paid subscriber section of the state-owned BelTA news wire. The prosecution under this article was stopped ‘in view of the non-existence of a crime’.

The charges were later replaced with administrative liability. In addition to fines, journalists paid damages (from 3,000 to 17,000 BYN).  

As of now, the only remaining defendant in the case is the editor-in-chief of TUT.BY Marina Zolotova. She now stands charged with ‘inaction of an official,’ which is comparable to criminal negligence.

Source: TUT.BY