Index 2024
167/ 180
Score : 26.8
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Index 2023
157/ 180
Score : 37.17
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Europe’s most dangerous country for journalists until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Belarus continues its massive repression of independent media outlets.

Media landscape

Belarus’ media have never been more repressed by the authorities than since the controversial reelection of Alexander Lukashenko as head of state in August 2020. As has happened to most independent media outlets, the most popular news website,, had its media status withdrawn and was blocked, raided and searched. It was also targeted by criminal prosecutions, before being labelled as “extremist” and banned. Some continue to publish from abroad. Only the state broadcaster BTRC continues to operate normally, pumping out the regime’s propaganda.

Political context

To silence independent journalists, the authorities have resorted to state-sponsored terrorism, including censorship, violence, mass arrests, and coordinated raids on homes and media offices, as well as disbanding the Association of Belarusian Journalists (BAJ). They even resorted to hijacking a passenger jet in May 2021 in order to arrest opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich and force him to make a “confession” on public television.

Legal framework

The Belarusian authorities have changed laws to give a legal veneer to attacks on press freedom. The justice system, under complete government control, has begun equating independent journalism with “extremism”, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Most independent media outlets and the BAJ have been officially declared “extremist”.

Economic context

The vast majority of Belarusian independent media outlets are now either operating from outside the county or have been forced to cease publishing. They are now mainly financed by external subsidies. Before 2020, they also benefited from advertising revenue.

Sociocultural context

Belarus is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, and it is notable for having a high number of female journalists behind bars. They include Katsiaryna Andreyeva who was initially sentenced to two years in prison in February 2021 for filming an unauthorised demonstration and then again in 2022 to eight years on a charge of “high treason”, as well as Maryna Zolatava, the editor of the leading independent media outlet, This readiness to jail women marks the end of a somewhat traditional patriarchal indulgence by the authorities, who were surprised by the prominent role of women in the post-election protests.


According to the BAJ, some 400 journalists have been forced into exile, and most of those who have stayed back work clandestinely. Targeted by the police, they are arrested, searched, sometimes assaulted, and mistreated in prison. This systematic harassment leaves deep psychological scars.