August 2018 — "Belta's Case"
Over the past years, the portal has repeatedly faced pressure from the state. In August 2018, independent media journalists were accused of "illegal access" to the paid news feed of the state news agency BelTA. In connection with this case, they raided the offices of TUT.BY, the BelaPAN news agency, several other media outlets, as well as the apartments of their employees. Eight employees of the portal were suspects in the case, including editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova.
Investigative actions lasted three days, many journalists were detained; they spent several days in detention facilities. Some of them, for example, journalist Dmitry Bobrik said that during interrogations, the employees of the Belarusian Investigative Committee put pressure on them, threatened them and their families, forcing them to sign a paper on cooperation. During the investigation, it became clear that the phones of the TUT.BY journalists had been wiretapped long before the initiation of a criminal case.
The journalists admitted that they had used BelTA's paid subscription; some of the defendants had access to it from their previous jobs. At the same time, the investigation managed to find only two news articles published on the portal earlier than for public use on the BelTA website. The materials produced were accompanied by hyperlinks to three other BelTA news in accordance with the agreements between the editors.
In early November, 14 suspects were charged under part 2 of Article 249 of the Criminal Code, also, BelTA brought a civil action against the accused. Each journalist had to pay an amount equal to a subscription to the paid version of the news agency for several months. On the same day, Zolotova was charged under Part 2 of Article 425 of the Criminal Code ("Failure to act on the part of an official"). As a result, the journalists compensated for the damage, and only the case brought against Zolotova was brought to court. She was fined 300 base units (at that time — 7,650 Belarusian rubles). In addition, 6,000 rubles were recovered from the editor-in-chief in favour of BelTA Unitary Enterprise – as compensation for legal expenses. Marina Zolotova pleaded not guilty.
August 2020 — Mass Protests in Belarus
After the presidential elections on August 9, 2020, those who disagreed with the results, took to the streets of Belarusian cities in protest. In response, they and the journalists working at the rallies were purposefully beaten and massively detained by riot police. On August 11, TUT.BY correspondent Stanislav Korshunov was detained in Brest, although he had a press badge and vest. Korshunov spent a day in a temporary detention facility. Further, the number of arrests kept growing, and many journalists, contrary to the testimony of witnesses and documents, were declared participants in mass events and sentenced to administrative arrests or were fined. In 2020, our staff members were detained 38 times. Some of the TUT.BY journalists were sentenced to arrests and fines.
In September 2020, TUT.BY journalist Nadezhda Kalinina and video journalist Aleksey Sudnikov covered an unauthorized protest rally in the center of Minsk – and were sentenced to three days of arrest each as participants in the rally. In November, Aleksandra Kvitkevich worked as a journalist at the pensioners' rally in Minsk. The police and the court decided otherwise, she was declared a participant in the rally, as a result, Alexandra was sentenced to 15 days of arrest.
In February 2021, Nadezhda Kalinina, who was trying to get to the congress of delegates of the Belarusian People's Congress in Minsk, was detained for the second time. Two police reports were drawn up against her: under Articles 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code, allegedly for participation in the picketing and resistance to the police. The court found our colleague guilty and ordered her to pay a fine of 80 base units (2,320 Belarusian rubles or approx. $925). The woman spent almost three days before the trial in a detention facility.
November 2020 — "Zero ppm Case"
In November 2020, TUT.BY journalist Katerina Borisevich was detained. She and emergency hospital doctor Artyom Sorokin were accused of disclosing medical secrets – under part 3 of article 178 of the Criminal Code. Borisevich was detained and tried for an article on a high-profile case – the death of 31-year-old Roman Bondarenko. In November 2020, unknown persons grabbed him in the courtyard and took him away in an unknown direction – later the guy died in hospital from severe injuries. Shortly afterwards, the Investigative Committee and Alexander Lukashenko personally claimed that the deceased was intoxicated. But in a comment to the TUT.BY journalist, the doctor denied this information.
The Prosecutor General's Office considered that the article of TUT.BY caused "tension in society, creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the competent state bodies, encouraging citizens to aggression and unlawful action". The agency brought charges of disclosing medical secrets. At the same time, Roman Bondarenko relatives had no complaints about the doctor and the journalist. Moreover, they openly shared information about their son's condition with the media, including documents confirming that Roman was sober at the time of his death.
The hearings were closed to the public. It is known that the doctor and the journalist pleaded not guilty in court. Even colleagues were not allowed to hear the verdict. The doctor received a two-year prison sentence suspended for a year and was released after its announcement. Our colleague was sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine of 100 base units.
December 2020 — TUT.BY Is Stripped of Its Media Status
In December 2020, the Economic Court of Minsk stripped TUT.BY of its media status in a case filed by the Ministry of Information of Belarus. The reason for this was the warnings issued by the Ministry of Information to the portal for disseminating "unreliable information that may harm the state or public interests". TUT.BY tried to appeal against the decision, but to no avail. However, the company managed to challenge one of the warnings and the Supreme Court overturned it in November. But all the others remained in effect. In December, the Economic Court of Minsk satisfied the claim of the Ministry of Information. TUT.BY was stripped of the status of an online media.
In fact, from that moment on, the editorial office was deprived of the right to make official inquiries to the authorities and attend court proceedings as a media representative, receive accreditation for official events and cover public events (including protest actions), as well as wear a badge and a vest of "Press". Despite this, the journalists continue their work, albeit without the status of a media outlet.
Often, the portal has to deal with personal attacks on journalists on social media. In the summer of 2020, numerous mailings were sent on social media from bot accounts, which contained insults of specific journalists and simply slander. Some of the employees filed a statement with the Investigative Committee – a libel case was never opened. In early March 2021, unknown persons tried to get access to the Telegram accounts of at least six employees of the portal.
In addition, from time to time journalists receive specific threats not only from anonymous Telegram channels, but also from the pages and TV channels of state-run media. We will mention only a couple of recent cases, for example, the column in "SB. Belarus Segodnya" Newspaper by Andrei Mukovozchik for March 29, where he wrote the following: "It's about you Suvorov said: "A year in the field (or with your head in tutby) and you can hang without a trial". Recently, an employee of the STV channel, Grigory Azarenok, "awarded" the portal with the "Order of Judas'' and compared the editorial office with a paedophile ingratiating himself with a child. At the same time, a photo of the editorial staff was shown on screen with a noose hanging nearby.
March 2021 — TUT.BY Editor-In-Chief Was Summoned to Police Because of Ad Banner That the Edition Even Doesn't Control
In March 2021, Marina Zolotova was summoned to the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to get familiarized with a warning about the inadmissibility of violating extremism legislation. The reason for this was an advertising banner on the TUT.BY website, which was displayed as part of a partnership with Yandex and Google, that is, a banner that the editorial staff cannot even foresee. At the same time, the investigators did not show Zolotova the banner, however, "SB. Belarus Segodnya" Newspaper published its screenshot calling the portal "a mouthpiece of extremists and terror".
May 2021 — Detentions Contunie
On May 17 – the day before security forces raided TUT.BY offices – a court in Minsk sentenced TUT.BY journalist Lyubov Kasperovich to 15 days of administrative arrest for covering the "students' case" trial. According to the investigation, Kasperovich came to the court to take part in the picketing, and not to report on what was happening there.