(updated) The reason for the initiation of the criminal case was the statement of the official agency BelTA.
Since Tuesday morning, a search has been carried out, several floors are cordoned off by law enforcement officials in the office of the tut.by portal in the Omega Tower business center on 57 Dziarzhynski Avenue, tut.by reports.
The journalists and editors are suspected of unlawful use of the paid BelTA subscription. Allegedly, they have visited the site using the old password.
"The absurdity of the situation is that the paid access to BelTA does not actually differ from the free one," – nn.by writes.
According to eyewitnesses, searches are going on and documents are being seized, several portal employees have been summoned for interrogation in the IC.
As Radio Svaboda has found out, law enforcement officers took tut.by editor Ulyana Babayed and Hanna Kaltyhina for questioning.
The Investigative Committee states that the criminal case was initiated under the article on "unauthorized access to computer information, made from personal interest, which caused significant harm."
"Officials of the publishing house Belarusian Science, CJSC BelaPAN, LLC TutBy Media are involved in this unlawful activity.
Today, a number of representatives of these organizations were detained on suspicion of committing the abovementioned crime. The investigation continues," – the department informes.
The IC explains that the reason for the initiation of the criminal case is the report of the republican unitary enterprise BelTA about failures when getting the access to the paid subscription services that are provided by the enterprise to one of its customers.
"For two years, without the knowledge and consent of the republican unitary enterprise, more than 15 thousand unauthorized connections to information stored in the computer system of the enterprise were committed," – the IC states.
As a result, they have caused significant harm, which resulted in the unlawful acquisition and use of information protected from outside access, as well as have undermined the business reputation of the enterprise.
"Officials of the publishing house Belarusian Science, CJSC BelaPAN, LLC TutBy Media are involved in this unlawful activity. Today, Maryna Zolatava, Hanna Kaltyhina and Tatsiana Karavenkava were detained on suspicion of committing the crime, –the Investigative Committee notes. Maryna Zolatava is the editor-in-chief of the tut.by portal, Hanna Kaltyhina is the editor-in-chief of the news, Tatsiana Karavenkava is a BelaPAN reviewer.
As the owner of the portal Yury Zisser told "Yezhednevnik", he couldn't comment on the situation so far, as he was at home and was about to go to the office to see what had happened.
However, according to preliminary information, the search warrant says that the web site of the state news agency BelTA was allegedly hacked from the office of the portal tut.by. and that was the reason for such actions.
"It is unclear who needed to hack into the web site of BelTA and why, but I think that they just took advantage of the summer and decided to check us. Let them check, everything is legal there," – Yuri Zisser said.
A representative of the BelaPAN editorial board confirmed to belsat.eu that the police searched the company office as well.
The journalist Tatsiana Karavenkava, who writes about politics, was detained in BelaPAN, nn.by reports.
As Radio Svaboda informs, Tatsiana Karavenkava, еру BelaPAN journalist, is having her home in Zhodzishki searched. Karavenkava and her mother are there now.
Andrei Bastunets, the chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, told belsat.eu that he was in the BelaPAN office, but the OMON blocked the premises and did not let in even journalists.
BelTA Director Iryna Akulovich explained to Nasha Niva why she wrote a statement that led to today's searches:
– This is an elementary theft and unauthorized access. BelTA has a subscription to the information feed – people pay money and get access to the information that does not yet exist on the site. The persons that you mentioned [Zolatava, Kaltyhina and Karavenkava – Nasha Niva's note] did not pay money, but used other people's passwords to get connected to this news feed and used the information, that's all.
Cars belonging to mass media – state TV channels BT, ONT and STV, – stand near the building of the Investigative Committee.
Police is taking BelaPAN correspondent Tatsiana Karavenkava from Zhodsishki village, Smarhon district, to the Central Office of the Investigative Committee in Minsk. She is now in the status of a suspect, her neighbor told to Radio Svaboda reporters. The search lasted about an hour.
6 employees of the tut.by portal – journalists and editors, – are now at the interrogation in the Investigative Committee. At least some of them are in the status of suspects.
Earlier, the Investigative Committee reported the detention of Maryna Zolatava and Hanna Kaltyhina. Later it became known that Uliana Babaed and Halina Ulasik were also interrogated. The names of the rest are being clarified. Their status is being clarified as well.
As information sources from the publishing house Belarusian Science told nn.by, employees of the Investigative Committee conduct a search also in the premises of the editorial office of the newspaper Science of the publishing house Belarusian Science.
As BelaPAN Editor-in-Chief Iryna Leushyna told Radio Svaboda, Tatsiana Karavenkava, the journalist of an independent agency and an international columnist, was detained. "Claims about the actions of Tatsiana and BelaPAN are completely incomprehensible. We always took the information that was absolutely open on BelTA and always represented it in free access with a hyperlink to the state agency. Therefore, it is simply ridiculous to assert that we had a mercenary benefit, especially Tatsiana Karavenkava," – Leushyna said.
The husband of Uliana Babaed, the detained editor of the Society column of the tut.by portal, stands near the building of the Investigative Committee. He told Radio Svaboda that the police turned the whole house upside down, took all the equipment.
The editors of tut.by were detained for three days. Valeryia, the daughter of the tut.by editor Halina Ulasik, told that. "The Investigative Committee phoned me and told that my mother was detained for three days under article 349 of the Criminal Code. When I asked if I could contact her, they replied that it was not possible as the police took away her mobile phone. They also informed that she would be kept in the detention center in Akrestsin street and that I could bring her something," – Valeryia Ulasik said.
BelaPAN journalist Tatsiana Karavenkava is being taken to Minsk for a search. She hired a lawyer, BelaPAN editor Iryna Lipai said.
Charter97.org editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina called for solidarity with the journalists: As for the searches and arrests in tut.by and BelaPAN offices. Perhaps, it is a mop-up of the information space before the coming serious events. Once again, I urge all journalists to show solidarity – Natallia Radzina wrote.
The owner of the tut.by company Yury Zisser commented to Radio Svaboda on the searches and arrests of his employees. "This is not a case against tut.by, since it is about only several employees, the portal is not involved in this. This is certainly unpleasant for us that all this blocked the work of the company, that people are not allowed to get into the office. But people work from their apartments and the site gets updated," – Zisser said.