Internet blackout in Belarus leaves protesters in the dark

MINSK/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Protest groups in Belarus are trying to use limited access to the Telegram messaging service to coordinate anti-government action, but say an internet shutdown they blame on the authorities has been effective in slowing them down.

FILE PHOTO: People gesture during clashes with opposition supporters after polls closed at the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

Mobile phone internet has been offline since protesters clashed with police on Sunday, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging a landslide re-election win. One person died in a second night of protests on Monday.

Limited Wi-Fi internet access is only sporadically available after users install a separate programme, while many social media websites are blocked. Lukashenko has denied the authorities are trying to shut down the internet.

Alexander, 42, a protester in Minsk, said he had not read a news article or social media post in two days: “I can’t see the news so I really don’t know anything.”

He said he went home on Monday evening thinking the protests in Minsk had ended, but across town, violent clashes were raging in several districts, with some protesters building barricades and police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Many protesters in Minsk told Reuters they had joined the Monday evening protests spontaneously and were simply following crowds of people they had spotted.

Twitter said on Monday: “We’re seeing blocking & throttling of Twitter in #Belarus in reaction to protests contesting the election result. #KeepItOn.”


Lukashenko, a former collective farm boss who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has blamed the internet outages on “foreign forces” he says want to fan public discontent.

The Telegram messenger, which is sporadically accessible through Wi-Fi, said it had enabled “anti-censorship tools” but that the service was “very unstable as internet is at times shut off completely in the country”.

Several protest groups on Telegram tried to help guide medical assistance to places where it said protesters were known to be hurt.

Nexta, one of those groups, runs a channel on Telegram covering the protests in detail and publishing dozens of protest videos. The channel has rapidly grown in popularity, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers since the election.

On Tuesday, it circulated a call for Belarusians to go on strike to demand the recognition of Lukashenko’s main election rival, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, as the true winner of Sunday’s polls. Tikhanouskaya has fled to neighbouring Lithuania since the election to join her children there.

Nexta reported that workers at a sugar plant, an electrotechnical factory and a chemicals institute had gone on strike in protest. That could not immediately be confirmed.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source Article

Next Post

Will Western Union, Visa And Revolut Drive The Next Wave Of M&A Activity In The Payments And Money Transfer Sectors?

Fri Aug 21 , 2020
Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek ASSOCIATED PRESS Each December for the past few years, this author, along with many others, predicted further consolidation in the cross-border payments market. Competition has been increasing, more Fintechs are gaining scale and investors love the sector. Yet the numbers tell a different story. According […]