Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, has expressed concern about the arrests of administrators of political social media groups in Belarus, which she described as a crackdown on online dissent.
"I have repeatedly called on Belarusian authorities to stop persecuting journalists and bloggers,"Ms. Mijatovic says in a statement issued on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, recent detentions and searches in Minsk and elsewhere in the country show continued efforts to muzzle dissenting voices and clamp down on freedom of expression online."
The arrests are aimed at subduing the media and Internet communities in Belarus, Ms. Mijatovic says. "They "are a strike against freedom of expression and contravene OSCE commitments which Belarus has pledged to uphold," she says.
Several people linked to opposition communities on social networking website VKontakte were arrested in Belarus on Thursday afternoon in a crackdown spearheaded by the KGB. Two of them were given jail terms on Friday while the others were released.
Simultaneously, hackers gained access to "We're Fed up with this Lukashenka" and one more opposition online community, "Only Shos!" and removed their content.
The two online groups had 52,000 members in total. The former group was eventually restored by the VKontakte administration.