Government of Belarus using 'new tools' to silence dissent on internet, says Index on Censorship report

Researchers also highlighted concerns that western technology giants may have sold equipment or software to Belarus that could be used to stifle or monitor dissent

The government of Belarus is employing a host of “new tools” to silence free voices and track down dissent on the internet according to a report published today.

Researchers at Index on Censorship have been investigating ways in which Europe’s last dictatorship monitors web activity at a time when internet use in Belarus is rapidly expanding.

Belarus boasts half a million new internet users every year making it one of the fastest growing online markets. Access to broadband has also increased dramatically, from just 10 percent of inhabitants able to use high speed internet in 2010 compared to 70 percent of internet users by September 2012.

The mainstream media in the former Soviet republic is almost exclusively state owned. The growth of the web has enabled dissidents and opposition groups to meet and exchange ideas with newfound vigour following the brutal December 2009 crackdown that began when protests broke out in the aftermath of disputed presidential elections.

Yet the report’s authors, who conducted a field trip to Belarus last month, warn that the growth of internet use has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in tools to monitor their activity.

Among the tools the researchers found in place were web filters on multiple government controlled WiFi networks, surveillance technology allowing the authorities to intercept all web traffic, the removal of secure access to particular websites including Facebook and the creation of fake versions of popular dissident websites such as Charter97.org.

Andrei Aliaksandrau, Index’s Belarus programme manager, said: “[Belarusian president] Alexander Lukashenko has significantly expanded his government’s control over the internet in the last two years. Few people in Belarus realise the level of state surveillance now being carried out by Lukashenko’s security services. This poses a huge threat to internet activists in Belarus.”

The report details how websites that are critical of the Belarusian government are often targeted by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, a disruption technique that employs thousands of computers used to bombard a website with requests for information that overwhelms and temporarily takes down the target site.

Researchers also highlighted concerns that western technology giants may have sold equipment or software to Belarus that could be used to stifle or monitor dissent.

Mike Harris, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship said: “State surveillance is yet another way that Lukashenko is compromising freedom of expression in Belarus. Index calls on the government to end online surveillance, release political prisoners and support its citizens’ rights to free expression. The European Union must also act to stop the export of surveillance technology to places like Belarus.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there