Our website has been labelled as “extremist materials”. What does it mean and how to visit it safely from now on
Published on June 6th, 2024
Dear readers!
Our website defendersbelarus.org is recognised as "extremist materials" by the decision of the court Brest Leninsky district from 04.06.2024.
Right to Defence's position is as follows:
The recognition of the website of the Project as extremist materials continues the state campaign to silence thousands of independent resources, including human rights-related ones. A year ago, on 13 June 2023, the website of our project "Right to Defence" ceased opening in Belarus.
It is obvious that in this way the state tries to limit the dissemination of objective and "inconvenient" information, in particular, about the current state of the Belarusian Bar and the existing problems of the attorneys’ community.

What does this status mean?

Distribution, storage, production, and transportation of "extremist materials" may lead to administrative liability under Article 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

"Dissemination of materials" may include:
- forwarding links to our materials in group chats and private messages
- inserting hyperlinks to our materials in your publications
- social media reposts

"Storage of materials" may include:
- keeping screenshots of our publications in the gallery of your device
- having our materials stored in cache

You could face the following penalties:
·a fine of 10 to 500 basic units;
·arrest for up to 15 days for each separate "unlawful act" (e.g. for three reposts you can be sentenced to arrest three times in a row for a total of 45 days).
·confiscation of the "instrument of offence" (e.g. the phone from which the repost was made).
Also, if your internet resource contains links to our publications, it may be blocked or recognised as "extremist" as well.
Some acts of cooperation with us may be considered offences by law enforcement officials:

"Promotion of extremist activity" (article 361-4 of the Criminal Code):
·sending information, media materials (photos and videos);
·providing interviews and expert commentaries
·assignments and any other assistance
"Financing of extremist activities" (article 361-2 of the Criminal Code):
·donations in any form (regular money, cryptocurrency, donation of items)
For these actions you may face criminal liability in the form of restriction of freedom for up to 5 years or imprisonment for up to 8 years with or without a fine.
These articles of the Code of Administrative Offences and the Criminal Code, in violation of the basic legal principles in Belarusan law enforcement practice, are applied retroactively. This means that you can be punished for all the above-mentioned actions even if they were committed before we were labelled "extremist". For example, for a repost of our publication that you made several years ago and failed to delete.

What actions with our resources are not formally punishable?

- visiting our resources without subscribing;
- mentioning our project without direct references;
- storing and disseminating the contents of our texts without direct links and attribution (unless any of them, in the opinion of the authorities, contain elements of other offences, such as "insulting the authorities" or "inciting hatred").

What should our subscribers do if they are in Belarus or are planning to visit it?

- clean up your enquiry and visit history regularly if you continue to read us;
- when visiting our resources, use VPN and incognito mode in your browser to avoid saving requests and setting up recommendation algorithms based on them;
- if possible, delete all reposts of our publications on your pages, messages in personal correspondence with references to us, hyperlinks to us in your publications and works;
- check the "saved" tabs, bookmarks in your browser for our publications and links to us;
- delete screenshots of our publications in albums and galleries on your devices. And also delete photos from the deleted files bin and cloud storage, as well as from cloud storage bins.
We understand that such status of the Right to Defence website will become an obstacle for users from Belarus. But we would like to remind you that the website is still available in the country via VPN: in order to open the "Right to Defence", we recommend connecting to a foreign server beforehand and opening the site in the browser in the "incognito" mode. Our project also has a mirror that is accessible without a VPN, but we still recommend visiting it in incognito mode. To avoid being prosecuted for reading our site, it is important to take all precautions.

We, in our turn, willcontinue to inform our readers about the state of affairs in the Belarusan advocacy and human rights community, despite the active obstruction from the state. Despite receiving a new "status", we will continue to work in the normal mode — as many Belarusian resources, which the authorities have recognised as "extremist", continue to communicate truthful information to Belarusians and the international community.

Thank you to everyone who reads and appreciates our project! Take care of your safety,
We care about you.
Key recommendations:
1. When visiting our website, use VPN and incognito mode in your browser to avoid saving requests and setting up recommendation algorithms on them (called "Private Access" in Safari, InPrivate in Microsoft Edge). Read more here.
2. Clear your browsing history and cache files. Read more here.
3. Do not save our website in your browser bookmarks. Do not take screenshots of our articles or save them on your phone or computer. If you use Google Chrome, your searches, specified location, voice control settings may be saved not only in your browser but also in your Google account. To stop recording app and search history, go to myactivity.google.com → sign in to your account if necessary → click on "App and web search history" → click on "Disable" and select "Disable feature and disable history". If history recording has been disabled but some of the history is still there, go to myactivity.google.com → above the list of activities, click "Delete" → select "All Time" → click "Next" → "Delete"

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