Abusing the Media in Belarus

January 10th, 2013

For many the internet has been a huge boost to the ability to protest and demonstrate.  Activists across the world in some of the most oppressed regions in the world can at last have a voice.  Unfortunately although we’d like to think that this communication can only be a good thing, there are others who use it as a tool for exactly the opposite reason.  Here’s a perfect example of what can happen when basically the authorities just make up the laws as they go along.

 

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These three gentleman are protesting on International Human Rights day against the imprisonment of Ales Byalyatski a human rights leader who was suspiciously sentenced for 4 years for tax evasion.  There were testimonies from four policeman who were rounded up from somewhere.

It sounds a run of the mill exploitation case until you read that nobody but them was actually at the ’demonstration’.  They were arrested as a result of this picture being put online.  The police who were witnesses weren’t actually at the protest, so I’m not sure what they witnessed.

One of the activists complained that he was arrested for what he advocated not for anything he had done.  This is a common practice for the KGB in Belarus who have realised it is easier to catch militants and activists by tracking them down online rather than in real life.  Sure this way they have less evidence and need to usually invent some witnesses in order to prosecute but that’s rarely a problem for that special brand of police who have a different agenda than upholding the law.

IN many countries you have to extremely cautious about what you upload to the internet.  The technique of arresting people based on their online activities was pioneered by the Iranians and Chinese who have huge teams of internet savvy people tracking down opponents to their regimes.  Of course activists can take precautions by perhaps using a VPN or US proxy for example to protect their connections but posting personal information or images is a huge risk.

In 2012 Swedish Activists dropped a huge number of teddy bears across Belarus.  Two journalists had their photos taken with the bears to show solidarity with the protesters – they were both arrested and fined, their crime erm posing with a teddy bear!!