Police Search Homes Of Belarusian News Agency Staff
By RFE/RL's Belarus Service August 18, 2021
MINSK -- Police in Minsk have searched the homes of several employees of BelaPAN, a private news agency, as a crackdown on independent media and pro-democracy activists in Belarus continues following last year's disputed presidential election that handed victory to authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Alyaksandr Zaytsau told the Naviny.by news website that the police told him that the searches were conducted on August 18 as part of an investigation into the "organization of activities that blatantly violate civil order."
According to Zaytsau, police confiscated his mobile phone, a computer hard disc, a tablet computer, his journalist documents, and several business cards.
Another journalist from the agency, Iryna Turchyna, as well as BelaPAN accountant Katsyaryna Boyeva, said police also searched their homes.
Naviny.by said that police also searched the home of BelaPAN's director and chief editor, Iryna Leushyna.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists said in a statement that after Leushyna's home was searched, police took her to the agency's offices, where they conducted a search of the premises.
BelaPAN reporter Zakhar Shcharbakou was detained for questioning after police searched his apartment, his wife wrote on Facebook.
The news agency's website became inaccessible both in Belarus and abroad as the searches started.
In January, police searched BelaPAN's headquarters and took away equipment. documents, computer hard discs, and servers, while a former deputy director, Andrey Alyaksandrou, was arrested and charged in January with high treason and organizing mass disorder, a charge referring to monthslong mass demonstrations demanding Lukashenka's resignation and a new presidential election.
Last month, several BelaPAN journalists fled the country following another wave of searches by police of the homes of independent journalists.
Lukashenka, 66 and in power since 1994, has tightened his grip on the country in recent months in a violent crackdown on dissent that has raised the ire of many Western states.
Rights groups say there is considerable evidence of torture being used by authorities on detainees.
The West has not recognized the results of the August 2020 election and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader. Many countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against his regime in response to his suppression of dissent in the country.
Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-belapan -homes-searched/31416578.html
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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