Belarus tries to silence "silent protests"
Belarus tries to silence "silent protests"A protest movement in Belarus, organised online, is proving tough for authorities to stamp out.
How do you protest when authorities won't give you permission to do so? Well in Belarus, you get creative. Protests against the government of Aleksandr Lukashenko have been on-going since June, spurred by economic conditions and the target of intensive crackdown efforts by authorities. According to the New York Times, at the end of July at least 2,000 people had been detained for taking part in the protests. The Stream previously reported on the country's "silent protests", in which protesters gathered without signs or placards and said nothing, they simply clapped. The protests have reportedly been organised online, particularly on Vkontakte, a Russian-language social network that is popular in Belarus and is similar to Facebook. One page, titled "Revolution through Social Networks" has attracted the most attention.
Authorities have attempted to block the protests at their source by blocking Vkontakte itself. The online technology site Slashdot reported that Vkontakte was inaccessible in Belarus on August 5 though as of August 8 the site was available again. In an effort targetting those who spread the word about demonstrations, one Vkontakte user will be tried on August 10, having been charged with 'organising a mass rally' when he posted a meeting notice on his page.
The attempts to crack down on protests have also taken on new legal implications. Demonstrations had skirted the law by maintaining quiet and displaying no slogans. Authorities have responded by drafting a new law that makes it illegal to stand together and do nothing. The law would prohibit the "joint mass presence of citizens in a public place that has been chosen beforehand, including an outdoor space, and at a scheduled time for the purpose of a form of action or inaction that has been planned beforehand and is a form of public expression of the public or political sentiments or protest.”
Read The Stream's previous coverage: A social network revolution in #Belarus.
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