According to news reports, the court’s ruling was based on inspections from Gomel’s Main Department for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption (HUBAZiK).
Belsat TV is the only Belarussian language-independent television broadcaster in the country. Despite the repressive laws against journalists and the media, the channel continued to extensively cover the anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020 and 2021.
While people are still allowed to read the information published by Belsat after the 'extremist" labeling, the Interior Ministry stated that citizens who share or distribute “extremist” content could be fined or even receive jail sentences.
Aleksy Dzikawicki, Belsat’s deputy director, called the decision “absurd” and assured that “Belsat will continue to work, continue to carry independent information in Belarusian, and without censorship”.
This decision comes in the context of an ongoing crackdown on dissenting voices and independent media in Belarus. In February 2021, Belsat TV journalists Catarina Andreeva and Darja Chulcova were sentenced to two years in prison for live-streaming a demonstration in Minsk. On 16 July, two other Belsat journalists, Iharr Ilyash and Hanna Halota were detained before being released a few days later.
In July, the Belarusian authorities continued to raid and close down independent media in the country, as well as imprison journalists. Many organisations are also threatened with closure, including the BAJ, which is suffering unprecedented harassment from the authorities.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on the international community to denounce the situation in Belarus. Each day, the authorities violate the media’s and citizens’ freedoms with impunity. The IFJ stands in solidarity with the BAJ and with all the Belarusian newsrooms, journalists, and organisations who face the government’s violent repression.”