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Belarusian authorities on Monday declared that the Belarusian service of the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle is an “extremist” organization and banned all its activities in the country.

The declaration means anyone working with Deutsche Welle producing content for the Belarusian service potentially faces a seven-year prison sentence. Anyone who reads and reposts articles by Deutsche Welle could be found guilty of an administrative or criminal offense.


Peter Limbourg, Deutsche Welle’s director general, criticized the decision, saying the accusations are “unfounded” and do not reflect the true nature of the Belarusian service’s work.

The Belarusian service of German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle has been declared an “extremist” organization by Belarusian authorities and its activities are being banned in the country. (Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Belarusian authorities have already named 199 organizations as “extremist” and they use the label to suppress dissent in the country. The list includes the Belarusian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the independent Belarusian TV channel Belsat, broadcasting in the Belarusian language from the Polish capital Warsaw.

“The situation with freedom of speech in Belarus is the worst in Europe,” said Andrei Bastunets, the head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, adding that Belarus was akin to a European “North Korea.”

Belarus was rocked by mass protests in 2020 after the country’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, declared he had won a sixth term in office. This vote was condemned by the West and the opposition as fraudulent.

In response, human rights organizations said authorities have arrested more than 35,000 people, brutally beating some of them. Many prominent opposition figures were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms, while others fled abroad.


Deutsche Welle’s Belarusian service is based in Bonn and the news organization is financed by the German government.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, there are currently 36 journalists behind bars in Belarus.

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