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Belarus classifies DW as 'extremist'

March 10, 2022

Belarus has classified all content put out by Deutsche Welle as "extremist." DW Director General Peter Limbourg has criticized the use of "cheap tricks," seeing them as evidence of growing nervousness in Minsk.

Deutsche Welle logo on building
DW is not the only media outlet to be targeted by the authorities in BelarusImage: Oliver Berg/dpa/picture alliance

DW Director General Peter Limbourg has accused Belarus of using tricks to take action against those who want to form an independent opinion, after Belarus' interior ministry classified all DW material as extremist.   

Limbourg denounced the decision, which categorizes all DW products and even its logo as extremist. "The blocking of our websites in Belarus in October 2021 was already an unbelievable encroachment on press freedom. The recent announcement of the criminalization of the DW logo proves how nervous the regime there is," he said in a statement.

It goes on to say: "DW is still informing many people in Belarus via tools for bypassing censors. Especially following the attack on Ukraine, the numbers have significantly increased. Now they want to use cheap tricks to create pseudo-legal grounds to take action against people who make use of their right to free speech."

 DW-Intendant Peter Limbourg
DW Director General Peter Limbourg has condemned the decision by authorities in BelarusImage: Carsten Koall/dpa/picture alliance

'Extremist products' of DW

On March 9, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus released a statement, saying: "The Minsk Central District Court, based on material from the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, has classified the information products of the Telegram channel and the DW Belarus chat as extremist material."

It also makes clear that Deutsche Welle's entire media and information network, as well as its logo in the form of the two letters D and W, are now considered extremist in Belarus.

DW is not the first media outlet to receive this classification. By now, most independent Belarusian media outlets are considered "extremist," including the portals Zerkalo.io, Euroradio, Radio Liberty and the newspaper Nasha Niva. DW's website has been blocked in Belarus since October 2021. The Belarusian authorities warn that people could be fined and imprisoned for up to 15 days for saving or disseminating "extremist material."  

Subscribing to the Telegram channel is not in itself explicitly classified as dissemination. Nevertheless, there are people who have already received heavy fines just for having subscriptions to "extremist channels" in Belarus.