WASHINGTON— Earlier today, a Belarusian court designated the Telegram and YouTube channels of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Belarus Service as “extremist” in the latest attempt to quash independent information sources and prevent RFE/RL from engaging with its audiences in Belarus.
In response to the court finding, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said, "RFE/RL adamantly rejects this ridiculous label. We are committed to continuing to provide objective news and information to the Belarusian people, who are in need of independent media more now than ever. The Lukashenka regime continues to make clear that their disregard for the truth and their efforts to restrict access to independent information know no bounds," he added.
Authorities in Belarus have declared over 300 Telegram channels, blogs, and chatrooms “extremist”—from local chats to channels with hundreds of thousands of subscribers—making anyone who publishes or reposts “extremist” materials liable for up to seven years in prison. According to RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, seven of the 10 most-popular Belarusian telegram channels have been declared “extremist.”
The designation follows the arrest of Belarus Service journalist Andrey Kuznechyk on November 25, and the blockage of access to the website of the 24/7 Current Time digital network on October 29.
RFE/RL journalists in Belarus have spent a cumulative 667 days behind bars since social media consultant Ihar Losik was arrested in June 2020; a verdict is expected on December 14 in Losik’s the months-long, closed -door trial. Numerous other RFE/RL journalists on assignment to report on the election and its aftermath have been harassed, detained, jailed, and stripped of their accreditations. In October 2020, the Lukashenka regime blocked the service’s website, and on July 16, Belarusian security officers broke through the doors of RFE/RL’s bureau in Minsk to raid and seal the office.
About RFE/RL's Belarus Service
Despite working in what Reporters Without Borders calls “the most dangerous country in Europe for media personnel,” RFE/RL's Belarus Service continues to provide independent news and analysis of the fast-moving events to Belarusian audiences in their own language, relying on social media platforms such as Telegram, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as mirror sites and an updated news app to circumvent pervasive Internet blockages and access disruptions.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.