Russia, Belarus to coordinate website censorship

Russia, Belarus to coordinate website censorship
Both Putin and Lukashenko have ramped up their repression of press freedoms and are increasingly trying to control the internet and ban opposition sites. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 7, 2024

Russia and Belarus are collaborating to establish a unified database of "extremists," according to the Belarusian ambassador in Moscow BelTA reported on February 6.

Ambassador Dmitry Krutoy expressed concern over the “inconsistency” in website blacklisting between the two nations, noting that some sites banned in Russia are still accessible in Belarus, and vice versa.

The new initiative aims at enhancing coordination between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries, ensuring that individuals or entities fleeing to either country will face appropriate criminal proceedings.

As bne IntelliNews recently reported, the Kremlin has been ramping up its efforts to control the internet in Russia, as part of a general crackdown on press freedoms that accelerated following the arrest of opposition blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in January 2021.

Lukashenko has also cracked down hard on opposition groups and sites since the mass demonstrations following the falsified presidential election in August 2020.

The Russian "extremists and terrorists" database currently lists over 13,000 individuals and approximately 5,500 materials, including books and songs. In Russia, engagement with extremist content can lead to severe legal consequences, with penalties reaching up to ten years imprisonment for "sponsoring extremism."

Belarus, on the other hand, has around 3,700 names in its "extremists" database, with a significant number of entries added following the crackdown on protests in 2020, as reported by the independent news site Mediazona.