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Belarus Slaps 'Extremist' Label On Opposition Leader's Telegram Channel

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya's Telegram channel, which has more than 100,000 subscribers, has been declared "extremist" by the authorities in Minsk amid an ongoing crackdown on civil society.

A Belarusian court has designated the official Telegram channel of exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the platform Golos (Voice) as “extremist,” as the authorities continue their clampdown on the opposition, independent media, and civil society following last year’s disputed presidential election.

The decisions were made by the Tsentralny district court on October 15 based on information provided by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, known as GUBOPiK.

Anyone subscribing to channels or chats designated as extremist can face jail time or fines.

Tsikhanouskaya’s Telegram channel has more than 100,000 subscribers. It publishes statements by opposition leaders and information about the work of her team, among other things.

Golos, which publishes information about election fraud, has more than 94,000 subscribers.

Authorities have declared hundreds of Telegram channels and chats “extremist” since Belarus was engulfed by protests last year after a presidential election in August -- which the opposition and the West say was rigged -- gave authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.

Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any fraud in the election and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on a political transition and new elections.

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