German broadcaster DW says Belarus blocks access to its website

by Reuters
Friday, 29 October 2021 13:55 GMT

BERLIN, Oct 29 (Reuters) - German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) said on Friday that Belarus had suspended access to its website on grounds that it included hyperlinks to "extremist" content, and it described the accusations against it as "ridiculous".

Relations between Belarus and the European Union have worsened sharply since August as many EU states accuse Minsk of sending illegal migrants across the border into the bloc to put pressure on it.

DW, which is funded by German taxpayers and says its stand against censorship is a central principle, said users had notified it on Thursday on social media that its news pages were no longer accessible.

The broadcaster said it then saw the Belarus Information Ministry announce on its website that it was restricting access to several online news portals including DW.

"The accusations against DW are absolutely ridiculous," said DW Director General Peter Limbourg in a statement.

"Mr. Lukaschenko has shown that he will stop at nothing to maintain his hold on power in his struggle against his own people," he said.

Reuters could not confirm the announcement of the ban on the Belarusian government website. It was not clear if other international media platforms were also affected.

Lukashenko's office and the Information Ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders criticised the move and said the Belarusian government's accusations were too vague.

"It opens the door to arbitrariness and persecution," the organization said.

As part of a broad crackdown on media and the opposition, Belarus on Friday classified three of the country's most popular opposition social media channels as extremist organisations, meaning people face up to seven years in prison for subscribing to them. (Reporting by Riham Alkousaa in Berlin and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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