Belarus authorities detain senior management, journalists of TUT.by
Senior members of staff as well as several journalists from Belarus’ major independent news outlet Tut.by have been arrested and the website has been taken offline amid the accusations of “large-scale tax evasion”. The leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and the US Embassy in Minsk have already condemned the persecution of the independent media outlet and attacks on its journalists and members of staff.
Euroradio reported that on May 18 the security forces arrived at the Tut.by headquarters with a search warrant. Searches were also carried out in the homes of Tut.by editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova and her deputy Maxim Gaiko.
A total of 13 people have been arrested, including Marina Zolotova, the outlet’s general director, chief accountant, several journalists and other members of staff.
What is TUT.by accused of?
The State Control Committee of Belarus reported that the Department of Financial Investigations launched a criminal case against the officials of Tut.By Media LLC on charges of large-scale tax fraud.
Tut.by is accused of using tax benefits provided by the Hi-Tech Park and carrying out prohibited activities there for the purpose making illegal profit.
Statements condemning Tut.by crackdown
“What we are witnessing today is a deliberate attack on the the media and the independent portal Tut.by. For 20 years it has regularly been providing accurate news coverage for the people of Belarus, and stood as an example of an independent press”, said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, leader of the Belarusian opposition and August 2020 presidential candidate who was forced to flee the country following the elections.
In her address, she described the situation as “occupation”.
“My team and I are already in touch with the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. We demand an immediate response from the European Union, an urgent launch of a program to support independent media, protect the journalists and help them to continue working despite the repressions”, Tikhanovskaya said.
She also insists on the imposition of sanctions “against all those responsible for reprisals against editorial offices, journalists and bloggers”.
The United States condemns “Lukashenko regime’s relentless persecution of independent media outlet Tut.by, its journalists and staff”, the US Embassy in Belarus said in a statement.
“The raids on Tut.by’s offices as well as the homes of staff members under the guise of a spurious tax-fraud investigation are the latest in a series of punitive actions directed against a media outlet whose primary “crime” appears to be its objective reporting on peaceful protests resulting from the fraudulent 2020 elections and the regime’s violent and cruel actions in response”, the statement reads.
Repressions against journalists, activists and the citizens who are dissatisfied with the current regime have intensified since the outbreak of mass protests in August last year. The opposition accuses President Alexander Lukashenko of electoral fraud and demands his resignation.