Belarus Criminalizes Following to Certain Social Media Channels

Belarusians who subscribe or follow “extremist” social media channels risk up to seven years in prison under new measures issued Wednesday by the government.

Social media platforms such as Telegram were heavily utilized last year amid enormous public rallies opposing President Alexander Lukashenko to coordinate demonstrations and distribute videos of a brutal police crackdown.

“Subscribers to extremist Telegram channels and chats will be held criminally liable … as members of an extremist group,” the country’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (GUBOP) Telegram channel said.

In Belarus, over a hundred Telegram channels and chat rooms have been designated as extremist. Anyone who reposts their work might already face a fine or detention for up to 30 days.

Last summer, protests erupted across Belarus over the election results, declared illegitimate by numerous foreign observers and Western countries. 

Telegram, an encrypted messaging service, was actively used by opposition supporters to plan protest operations.

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