Another dissident Telegram channel labelled as ‘extremist’ in Belarus

On April 19, Chyhunachny district court of Homiel has declared the Telegram channel Belamova (also known as BGMnewы) extremist, the press service of the Interior Ministry reports.

According to the mшnistry, the Telegram-channel ‘regularly publishes extremist materials, including those aimed at inciting social hatred, as well as insults of law enforcement officials and civil servantsэ.

“In an effort to destabilise the social and political situation in Belarus and change the constitutional order, the channel’s members regularly called for mass riots, street protests, hooliganism, radicalisation, vandalism, resistance to police, blocking roads and railways,” the statement reads.

As reported earlier, a number of other TG channels, including those of bloggers Anton Matolka and Stsyapan Putsila, were added to the list of banned media resources by the Lukashenka regime. Under Belarusian law, the persons who publish or share information from ‘extremist’ groups and communities are to be subject to administrative penalty (fine or even arrest).

Belamova has about 277,000 subscribers. The channel which actively covered the events around the 2020 election campaign in Belarus was created by popular Belarusian blogger Ihar Losik, who is now a political prisoner. On June 25, when the 2020 election campaign was in its full swing, Losik’s home in the town of Baranavichy was searched; the man was then arrested. He has a wife and a little daughter.

‘Blatant injustice’: Hunger-striking political prisoner asks EU envoys, democratic govts for help

He was charged under Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code (‘organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order’) and Art. 293 (‘preparation for participating in mass riots’).

Pleading not guilty and considering his criminal prosecution to be politically motivated, he went on an indefinite hunger strike ‘until all accusations were dropped or the measure of restraint was changed’. Then Losik said he had already spent half a year in prison on ‘the absurd charge’. He ‘would have had to use a teleporter’ in order to commit that crime, he stressed in his address published on Telegram. Later, however, the detention period for the political prisoner was extended by three months, until March, 25. In late January, the imprisoned blogger decided to end hungerstriking on its 42nd day.

In March, another charge was brought against Ihar Losik. When he was informed of the new accusation, he made an attempt to cut his hands in front of the investigator and the lawyer. He was on a ‘dry’ hunger strike for five days, refusing food and water in protest.

Arrests and charges: Why Lukashenka sees bloggers as real threat to his presidency