Belarus KGB Puts Social-Media Channel Creators on Terrorist List
(Bloomberg) -- The Belarusian security service put the founder of the country’s most popular Telegram channel and its former chief editor on a terrorist watch list as President Alexander Lukashenko tries to stamp out continuing protests against claimed landslide re-election three months ago.
Nexta-Live founder Stsiapan Putsila, 22, and Raman Pratasevich, 25, are the only two Belarusian citizens on the list of more than 700 “individuals involved in terrorist activities” drawn up by the State Security Committee, still known as the KGB. Pratasevich left the channel in September.
Nexta-Live, with more than 1.8 million subscribers, was instrumental in covering the police brutality against protesters nationwide in August and demonstrations that regularly gathered more than 100,000 people in the capital alone.
The channel was designated as “extremist” in October, according to the state news agency Belta, making it illegal to distribute its content or display its logo in Belarus. The authorities are seeking to extradite Putsila and Pratasevich from Poland, Belta reported this week.
Almost 1,300 people were arrested on Sunday at the weekly rally in the capital, Minsk, according to human-rights center Viasna, which isn’t officially registered in the country. For the first time since the disputed Aug. 9 election, the opposition hasn’t called for a single major rally in Minsk on Sunday via popular telegram channels. Instead, people were urged to organize smaller local rallies.
Lukashenko has rejected criticism of the crackdown and on Thursday promoted a senior police official who had played an active role in dispersing and arresting protesters.
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