A new report on the world’s most censored countries by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) put Belarus on par with North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea.
The research took into account various tactics starting from imprisonment and repressive laws to surveillance of journalists and restrictions on internet and social media access.
According to the report, Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan are the top three most censored countries with Belarus taking ninth place on the list.
“Authorities in Belarus exercise almost absolute control over the media; and the few independent journalists and bloggers face harassment and detentions,” reads the report.
“The state systematically targets influential media outlets and individuals, often in very public ways, arresting journalists, raiding newsrooms, and initiating criminal probes for reporting.”
In recent years, the government blocked several independent news websites and while it squeezes independent news outlets, more Belarusians rely on social networks.
However, Belarus authorities have a response for this too, in 2018, they approved a bill on ‘fake news’ and adopted amendments to the Law on Mass Media to tighten its grip on digital media.
“The government has the authority to oversee internet service providers, set standards for information security, conduct digital surveillance of citizens, and manage Belarus’ top-level domains.”
As a lowpoint, the report names BelTA case, the prosecution against editors and journalists of several independent media accused of illegal access to the paid section of a state-run news site.
Particularly, the report names the trial of Maryna Zolatava, TUT.BY editor-in-chief who was found guilty with the inaction by an official and sentenced to a fine of BYN 7,650 (~$3,600).
Just recently Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his intentions to restrict internet freedom but fearing the civilized society enforcing sanctions against Belarus.