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Belarusian Press Club Chief, Associates Detained For Alleged Tax Law 'Violations'

Yulia Slutskaya (file photo)
Yulia Slutskaya (file photo)

MINSK -- The founder of the Belarusian Press Club, Yulia Slutskaya, and four of her associates have been detained in a case that authorities described as tax law "violations."

Slutskaya's daughter Alyaksandra said on December 23 that along with her mother, police also detained Press Club staff members Syarhey Alsheuski, Syarhey Yakupau, Pyatro Slutski, and Ala Sharko.

Yulia Slutskaya was detained after she arrived in Minsk from abroad on December 22, while the others were detained hours later after their homes and offices were searched.

According to Alyaksandra Slutskaya, relatives do not know the whereabouts of the detained journalists and media managers.

Meanwhile, the Committee for State Control said late on December 22 that it launched preliminary investigations into "facts of violation of the taxation laws of the Republic of Belarus by the staff members of the Press Club Journalistic Workshop cultural-educational organization linked among other things to financial support from abroad."

The detainments came just days after the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed Belarus as a country where authorities have significantly increased their arrests of journalists in recent months.

The arrests come as mass protests continue across the country over a disputed presidential election in August.

Election officials in Minsk say incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka won a landslide victory. Opposition supporters say the results were rigged in Lukashenka's favor.

Since August, at least 373 journalists have been arrested in Belarus. At least six remain in custody.

In October, the Foreign Ministry revoked the media accreditation of several foreign media organizations in a move widely criticized as an attempt to stifle reporting about ongoing antigovernment demonstrations.

Founded in 2011, the Belarusian Press Club calls itself "a platform for professional development of independent media and journalists."

With reporting by BelTA
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