Court declares Telegram stickers extremist — Analysis

The stickers branded by a Belarusian court as ‘extremist’ feature President Alexander Lukashenko

Minsk’s court recognized the two sticker sets for Telegram, a popular messaging app. “extremist information products,”It is the first time that such images were branded prohibited content in Belarus.

The stickers in question are the ‘Luka’ and ‘Sasha 3%’ animated sticker packs, which feature satirical images of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The designation was made by the court on July 25, but it only drew public attention on Friday after Belarusian authorities updated the Ministry of Information’s website to list what is considered to be extremist content. This list contains books, newspapers and websites as well as certain Telegram channels, symbols, and Telegram accounts.

According to a Belarusian law, subscribers to prohibited Telegram channels are considered grounds for investigating and could result in criminal liability. Participants in extremist groups can be charged and sentenced to up to seven years imprisonment for subscribers to these channels.

Belarusian authorities labeled Telegram channels like Radio Liberty Belarus as extremists last year. They claimed that the channel’s subscribers were spreading false information. In a interview, Vladimir Makey, Belarus’ Foreign Minister stated that it was necessary to ban such channels as well as seek criminal responsibility for subscribers. “the right measure.”

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These channels are filled with “blatant calls to commit certain illegal acts, incitements. Not only insinuations, but also specific appeals,”The minister stated. “Therefore, I believe that these kinds of extremist channels should not have an impact on young people, on an unformed psychology.” 

Belarusian Interior Ministry stated that Telegram channels could be recognised “as both extremist material and an extremist formation.”All of the followers who are part of a recognized channel could be charged in criminal proceedings if they support it. If the channel posts only extremist material there could be no penalty for its subscribers, except that they promote it by posting, donating, or providing information.

Minister advised Belarusian citizens not to subscribe to these channels.

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