KYIV, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Belarusians who subscribe to social media channels deemed “extremist” face up to seven years in jail beneath new proposals printed by the authorities on Wednesday.
Social media channels comparable to Telegram messenger have been broadly used throughout mass road protests in opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko final yr each to coordinate demonstrations and share footage of a violent police crackdown.
Some of probably the most well-known Telegram channels, together with the NEXTA news outlet, have been categorised as “extremist” after the protests started. NEXTA has almost 1 million subscribers whereas the Telegram channel of the TUT.BY news portal, which was closed down by the authorities, has 500,000.
The Belarusian directorate for preventing organised crime stated in a assertion that “subscribers to extremist Telegram channels and chats will be held criminally liable … as members of an extremist group.”
More than a hundred Telegram channels and chats have been recognised as extremist in Belarus. Anyone reposting their materials can already be fined or detained for up to 30 days.
Protests erupted final yr after a presidential election that Lukashenko’s opponents say was blatantly rigged to maintain the veteran chief in energy.
Tens of hundreds of individuals have been detained and human rights activists say greater than 800 folks at the moment are in jail as political prisoners because the protests.
The authorities have lately launched reprisals in opposition to residents who voice dissent on-line. Hundreds of individuals have been detained and face jail phrases for making disrespectful feedback about a KGB officer who died in a shootout in Minsk final month. learn extra
“Belarus’ independent media are destroyed, many journalists are imprisoned, websites are blocked,” exiled opposition determine Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter.
“Now the regime threatens with criminal persecution & up to 7 years in prison for a subscription to “extremist” Telegram channels, incl. of free media. The truth is banned in Belarus.”
Editing by Gareth Jones