Onliner.by turns off comments fearing repression

There were often hundreds of comments under onliner.by news. The editorial board had to moderate them, but with the new laws, it became much harder.

Sample image. How 2021 was greeted in a Minsk courtyard. December 31, 2020. Photo: TK / Belsat.

Onliner.by has reported that comments on its website had been disabled since 12 July. However, the site’s forums continue to operate.

Since late last fall, each user’s comment was read by a moderator before publication to ensure that the text did not violate the law. However, recent laws have increased liability for publishing “illegal” content, and the boundaries between legal and “illegal” are now, as the editorial board writes, “often difficult to determine, even for a professional lawyer.

Because of this, the editorial board cannot ensure the safety of those who speak out under the news “especially under emotional stress.” And the situation shows that there is no other way around it. We’re talking about criminal charges against commenters and the safety of the newsroom.

“We are grateful to all our readers and proud that we were able to create the most active platform for the exchange of opinions in the country. But the situation has changed,” the editorial board writes, adding that it continues to work in Belarus and for Belarusians.

On 18 May searches were conducted in Minsk and regional offices of TUT.by, as well as in the homes of its employees. 15 people connected with the portal were detained, including the director, the editor-in-chief and the widow of the portal founder. The authorities want to declare the entire portal “extremist.” TUT.by website was blocked on the same day, but on 8 July the portal team launched a new site – Zerkalo.io.

During the KGB ‘purge’ (as the authorities called it), at least five publications were searched on July 8: “Nasha Niva, Brestskaya Hazeta, Media-Polesye, Intex-Press and Orsha.eu.” The executives of ‘Nasha Niva’ and the editor-in-chief of ‘Nasha Niva’ were arrested, while the editor-in-chief of ‘Nasha Niva’ was also beaten. The ‘purge’ continued on 9 July, the police searched the onliner.by journalist Nastasia Zanko, among others.

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