MINSK (Reuters) – Journalists detained in Belarus this week on suspicion of hacking the computer systems of state-run news agency BelTA have been released, state investigators said on Thursday.
Several journalists, including one from German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, were detained on Wednesday and Tuesday. Investigators also searched the newsrooms of privately-owned online news portal Tut.by and independent news agency BelaPAN as part of the same probe.
“After carrying out a set of urgent investigative and other procedural actions as part of the criminal case, the investigation has decided to release … the persons connected to the case,” investigators said in a statement.
Local rights groups have said the arrests were part of a government drive to muzzle independent media – an allegation the Belarussian Foreign Ministry has denied.
President Alexander Lukashenko has run Belarus along Soviet-style command lines since 1994. He has heeded some calls from the West to show more leniency towards political opposition, but opponents say their freedom to operate remains severely limited.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; writing by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Andrew Roche)