Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has added Belarus, along with Bahrain, to its list of "Enemies of the Internet," accusing Alyaksandr Lukashenka of strengthening his grip on the Web.
The French-based media watchdog published the blacklist on Monday on the occasion of World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
The Internet – a mobilization and information platform – has received the full brunt of the Belarusian authorities’ brutal crackdown on the opposition, says RSF in its report on Belarus. Last year, Belarus was on the group’s second-tier list of countries under surveillance.
In the 2012 report, RSF says that the Internet played a crucial role in "a climate marked by intensified censorship and a hunt for journalists." "Foreign – and particularly Russian – reporters are now personae non gratae," it says. "Some 100 Belarusian journalists were interrogated in 2011 alone, and over 30 given prison terms."
The media watchdog also notes what it says increasing pressure on netizens and multiple cyber attacks on the media. "Surveillance has become routine," it says. Internet filtering, provided for in Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decree increased, with the blacklist of blocked websites, which has been steadily growing larger since the December 19, 2010 post-election protest in Minsk, now including opposition news sites belaruspartisan.org and charter97.org, the blogging site of politically minded social commentator Yawhen Lipkovic and the site of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights group, says RSF.
The group also denounces a blackout, which it says the Belarusian authorities attempted to impose on media coverage of the subway bombing in April 2011, and their crackdown on activists of "The Revolution through Social Networks", which organized a series of "silent protests" across Belarus in the summer.
The 2012 list of "Internet enemies" includes 12 countries, with Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Syria among them.