Internet blackout in Belarus leaves protesters in the dark

Reuters

Protest groups in Belarus are trying to use limited access to the Telegram messaging service to coordinate anti-government action, but say an internet shutdown they blame on the authorities has been effective in slowing them down.

Mobile phone internet has been offline since protesters clashed with police on Sunday, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging a landslide re-election win. One person died in a second night of protests on Monday.

Limited Wi-Fi internet access is only sporadically available after users install a separate programme, while many social media websites are blocked. Lukashenko has denied the authorities are trying to shut down the internet.

Alexander, 42, a protester in Minsk, said he had not read a news article or social media post in two days: “I can’t see the news so I really don’t know anything.”

He said he went home on Monday evening thinking the protests in Minsk had ended, but across town, violent clashes were raging in several districts, with some protesters building barricades and police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Many protesters in Minsk told Reuters they had joined the Monday evening protests spontaneously and were simply following crowds of people they had spotted.

Twitter said on Monday: “We’re seeing blocking & throttling of Twitter in #Belarus in reaction to protests contesting the election result. #KeepItOn.

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