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Belarus blacklists blocked media outlet Tut.by and new publication Zerkalo.io as extremist

Source: Zerkalo.io

The Belarusian authorities have designated the prominent independent news outlet Tut.by, as well as its new media venture Zerkalo.io, as “extremist.”

Journalists from Tut.by launched Zerkalo.io just last month. The new media outlet was intended to act as a stand-in for Tut.by, after the Belarusian authorities blocked its website and bank accounts in May, and arrested a number of its employees as suspects in a felony tax evasion case.

On August 13, Minsk’s Central District Court satisfied a request from the Interior Ministry and recognized Tut.by’s “information products,” its logo, and its social media content as extremist. The court designated Zerkalo.io’s website, logo, and social networking accounts as “extremist” as well.

This makes the distribution of Tut.by and Zerkalo.io’s materials a misdemeanor offense in Belarus (under Administrative Code article 19.11).

Zerkalo.io’s editors called the Interior Ministry’s claims groundless, underscoring that the publication will continue work, as its operations are based abroad. The journalists also noted that reading Zerkalo.io and giving interviews to its journalists is not prohibited in Belarus. 

“We are confident that we aren’t breaking the law and that the Interior Ministry’s claims are groundless. Zerkalo.io journalists comply with the principles of journalism and Belarusian law.”

Earlier, the Belarusian authorities handed extremism designations to the Warsaw-based television channel Belsat and the sports news site Tribuna.com. Dozens of other independent media outlets are blocked. Belarusian law enforcement officers have also carried out raids on a number of newsrooms. Last month, police arrested the editor-in-chief and a number of other staff members from the Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva.

The pressure on independent media in Belarus has ramped up significantly against the backdrop of the large-scale opposition protests that began in the summer and fall of 2020. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime responded to the demonstrations with a campaign of mass repressions that is still ongoing today.  

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