For many Belarusians, a typical day began with Tut.by. Founded in 2000, the web portal quickly became one of the country’s leading independent news services, with over 1.8 million unique visitors daily.
Today, the news organization’s website is shut down by government order, although its staff continue to distribute news as best they are able on other platforms.
The success of the Minsk-based outlet, founded by the late businessman and philanthropist Yuri Zisser, was based on its independence.
“It was the media market’s standard-bearer,” said Nikolai Khalezin, a journalist and the co-founder of the London-based Belarus Free Theater, which produces shows on social justice and human rights. ”This was in large part because Yuri Zisser was successful in maintaining a political balance without taking any one side.”
As a result, Khalezin said, Tut.by became the country’s biggest internet-based platform, offering news, email service, sales listings for real estate and more. “All of this made it a market darling,” Khalezin said.
“Tut.by would have been the equivalent of, say, The New York Times,” said Uladzimir Matskevich, a former journalist and renowned Belarusian philosopher and methodologist. “(But) with content easily accessible and free to all.”
All that changed in August last year, when mass protests spilled across Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in a contested election. Members of the opposition…