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Belarus Blocks Art, Lifestyle Website For 'Harming National Interests'


According to RFERL the Belarusian Information Ministry has blocked access inside the country to an art and lifestyle website, kyky.org, accusing it of "distributing information that can damage national interests" and defaming certain groups.

In a statement on the site, the Kyky staff called the ban "incorrect" and hailed "the courage to ask awkward questions," vowing to "do everything in our power to restore normal operation of the site."

Until that time, they encourage would-be readers to follow them via social media like Facebook, VKontakte, and Twitter.

The Information Ministry's website on June 17 complained about the content of four kyky.org articles and columns, including a piece that questions the appropriateness of lavish Victory Day parades in Minsk.

The ministry said the articles contained "derogatory remarks" toward Victory Day and groups that take part in the parade, "distorted the historical truth about World War II," and "question[ed] the significance of the event in the history of the state."

One article published ahead of May 9, Parade Of The Victory Over Oneself, describes how the Belarusian capital prepared for days for the parade, with tanks and other military vehicles blocking roads in downtown Minsk and disrupting traffic for hours.

"People go out to see the country's military might: tanks and military jets. And without tanks and jets, we don't have any other national idea," the piece argues.

"Just don't say that the WWII veterans need this parade. I know what a 90-year-old person needs: peace and care. They need someone to go to the store and carry goods; someone to take their arm while they walk. They need a sufficient pension to live decently, not barely enough for bread and medicine," the article goes on to say.

Another, titled We Will Make More Tractors, compares older and new generations of Belarusians.

It says the new generation "inspires me because it hasn't experienced life under the Soviet Union."

The older generation has had "20 years of illusion" since the country's rapidly developed independence came about. "And there was a rise in oil prices and growth of the Russian economy, which was buying our products...but it's all over now and we see appalling realities."

Another piece, Why You Shouldn't Go To Church, questions Christian values.

The website -- which remains accessible outside the country -- describes itself as the first victim of a media law that went into effect on January 1 and gives the Information Ministry the power to block sites it deems "offensive" without a court order.

The legislation tasks the Information Ministry with monitoring online media outlets "to ensure that materials used by the websites correspond to Belarusian legislation."

Kyky.org director Darya Matsyavina told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that she was "shocked" by the authorities' decision, which she said came without warning.

"We had somehow expected that this might happen as the worst-case scenario," she said. "According to the law, they can block or shut a website only after issuing prior warnings twice. Only in extreme circumstances they can close a website without a prior warning."

Matsyavina added, "Now, the most important is to restore access to the website and to challenge the legality of the ministry's decision."

Belarus is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is widely criticized for violating the freedom of media during his two decades in power.

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