The website of Belarus’ leading independent media outlet, TUT.BY, has been blocked by authorities after a series of raids.
The channel’s editors reported Tuesday that its offices were searched by agents of the Belarusian Financial Investigation Department (DFR).
Marina Zolotova said officials raided her office, her home and the journalists’ homes.
“TUT.BY co-founder Kirill Voloshin announces that the portal’s domain has been blocked,” the organization said on social media.
“The DFR has initiated a criminal case against TUT.BY,” the outlet added. The independent news website remained inaccessible in France on Tuesday afternoon.
Euronews has contacted the DFR for a statement on the reported searches.
According to TUT.BY, the investigating authority confirmed that it was conducting raids on the media for “tax fraud”.
The Belarusian Ministry of Information has stated that it had restricted access to TUT.BY following an order from the country’s attorney general.
“The Attorney General’s Office has established numerous facts of violations of the law … in terms of publishing prohibited information in a series of publications on the TUT.BY website,” they said in a statement.
This information was said to include content about the “unregistered” BYSOL foundation, which aims to support victims of repression in the country.
“It is prohibited to disseminate information on Internet resources on behalf of organizations that have not submitted to state registration in the prescribed manner,” the ministry said.
TUT.BY, which receives up to 20 million unique visitors a day, is the country’s leading independent media outlet and has extensively covered demonstrations and violent repression by the authorities.
Several of its reporters have been sentenced to short prison terms for “participating” in the rallies, Belarus said.
In recent months, President Lukashenko has overseen the crackdown on the country’s independent media, as well as foreign journalists.
In February, Daria Chultsova and Katerina Bakhvalova of the Poland-based opposition channel Belsat were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of fomenting unrest while covering the 2020 protest movement.
The Belarusian authorities have also stopped broadcasting the Euronews Russian news channel.
“Today we witness the deliberate ‘assassination’ of the independent media TUT.BY,” said Belarusian opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced into exile from Belarus following opposition protests, said her team was in contact with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“I call on the international community to react immediately to the regime’s crackdown on independent media in Belarus,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
“This is a planned attack against our journalists and media, and they need legal protection and emergency relocation. It is crucial to help the media continue their work.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism