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Belarus threatens to prosecute subscribers to certain social media channels

The independent media outlet NEXTA has said the resolution is false.
The independent media outlet NEXTA has said the resolution is false. Copyright AP Photo/Sergei Grits/2020
Copyright AP Photo/Sergei Grits/2020
By The Cube
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Belarus' Main Directorate for Fighting Organised Crime has said that citizens who subscribe to "extremist Telegram channels and chats" are also criminally liable.


Belarus has threatened to prosecute citizens who subscribe to social media channels that are deemed "extremist".

Citizens who follow banned outlets on social media will themselves be classified as "extremist" under a proposed new law.

The country's directorate for fighting organised crime (GUBOP) announced the new measure in a statement on Telegram.

"Subscribers of extremist Telegram channels and chats will be prosecuted ... as members of an extremist group," GUBOP on Wednesday.

"GUBOP warns that subscription to extremist channels and chats entails criminal liability."

Those found guilty under the new legal amendment could be liable to up to seven years in prison, the authority added.

But independent media outlets in Belarus in the country have dismissed the announcement and say that there is "not a word about criminal liability" in the new resolution.

Social media channels such as Telegram have been widely used to orchestrate opposition demonstrations since Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election last August.

Minsk has since classified dozens of Telegram channels as "extremist" as part of an ongoing crackdown on independent media and opposition groups.

One of the most well-known channels, NEXTA, has just under 1 million subscribers on Telegram.

The media outlet said on Telegram that the proposed resolution was a false statement intended to intimidate citizens.

"'Thank you' to everyone who helped the junta intimidate people and reduce the number of those who read independent Telegram channels," NEXTA said.

"Today's stuffing about the 'criminal case' for subscribing to Telegram channels is nothing more than the despair of the junta from the total defeat that propaganda suffers," it added in a further post on Wednesday.

"The sole purpose of this stuffing is to instill fear," the outlet stated.

NEXTA's founder and former editor Roman Protasevich remains under house arrest after he was detained when Minsk forced a plane he was on to divert and land in Belarus.


The incident triggered international uproar and has prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on Lukashenko's regime.

Last month, dozens of people were also detained for posting social media comments about a KGB shootout in Minsk.

"Belarus' independent media are destroyed, many journalists are imprisoned, websites are blocked," tweeted exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

"Now the regime threatens with criminal persecution and up to 7 years in prison for a subscription to "extremist" Telegram channels, including of free media."


"The truth is banned in Belarus," Tsikhanouskaya added.

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