A court in Belarus has designated leading independent news outlet Tut.by and its new media site, Zerkalo.io, as "extremist."
The site Zerkalo.io was created last month by journalists from Tut.by after Belarusian authorities blocked its popular news site, froze the company's bank accounts, and detained a number of staff for alleged tax evasion.
Tut.by was one of the more prominent websites covering the crackdown on protests after a disputed presidential election last summer gave strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term in office despite widespread allegations of fraud.
The Interior Ministry said that in addition to the two news sites, their social-media platforms were also banned and anyone sharing information from the outlets could face jail time or fines.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
Both sites are a "platform for the propaganda of extremist activities aimed at inciting social hostility or discord, organizing and carrying out mass riots, as well as inciting political and ideological enmity," the Interior Ministry said.
In response, Zerkalo.io said in a statement that it would appeal the ruling because it did nothing wrong. It vowed to continue working from abroad.
Previously, Belarusian authorities labeled the Polish-funded Belsat television channel and a popular sports portal as "extremist" for the critical coverage of the government amid an intensifying crackdown on the media and civil society.
Authorities have also shuttered the popular Nasha Niva newspaper, the Minsk office of RFE/RL, and dozens of regional publications.
Since the beginning of the year, more than a hundred police searches have taken place in the editorial offices and apartments of journalists in Belarus. Dozens of media workers are either in detention or face charges.