New York, February 1, 2018– The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Belarusian Ministry of Information to unblock access to the independent news website Charter 97. Natalya Radina, the site’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ today that access to the site has been blocked in Belarus since January 24, and that from today, the web anonymizers that Belarusians used to circumvent the censorship also appeared to be blocked.
A January 24 statement announcing the ministry’s decision cited the website’s alleged violations of the Law on Mass Media, but did not specify what those violations were. Charter 97 has been covering the influx of Russian state propaganda in Belarus in addition to a deepening economic crisis in the country, which is due to host the 2019 European Games.
“We call on Belarusian authorities to return Charter 97 to its audiences in Belarus without delay and stop limiting access to independent information in the country,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “In addition, Belarus must start reversing its repressive policies toward the media as it gears up to hosting the next European Games in 2019.”
Radina, a recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, edits the site in exile after she was forced to flee Belarus in 2011 because of harassment, attacks, and imprisonment in retaliation for Charter 97‘s critical coverage of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. Radina told CPJ that the popularity of the independent website has grown steadily in the past six years. “This blocking is a clear attempt to purge the information space of a free voice,” she said.