Belarus profile

  • 19 December 2012
  • From the section Europe
Newspaper readers in Belarus
Official newspapers are subsidised while opposition print media have struggled to survive

Belarus has been heavily criticised by rights bodies for suppressing free speech, muzzling the press and denying the opposition access to state media.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Belarus 168th out of 179 countries in its 2012 world press freedom index. It said independent journalists try to report "despite harassment and intimidation".

Freedom House says a 2008 media law gives the state "a monopoly over information about political, social, and economic affairs".

TV is the main source of news. The four national channels are state-controlled; their main competitors are Russian networks.

Official newspapers are subsidised, while opposition print media have faced increased charges and have been forced to change name, close down, or publish abroad.

Some private publications survive. They include business daily BDG Delovaya Gazeta and the embattled opposition paper Narodnaya Volya.

Foreign media outlets target Belarus. They include the Polish-funded, Belarussian-language satellite TV station Belsat.

The web is used by the opposition to make its voice heard. There were around 4.4 million internet users by June 2012 (InternetWorldStats).

RSF says a "burgeoning internet has only recently come to the attention of the censoring authorities". By law, ISPs must identify the devices used by web users and keep records of services rendered.

Authorities have repeatedly blocked social networks, including the Russian VKontakte site, Facebook and Twitter, says Freedom House.

The press


  • Belarussian TV - state-run, operates the First National Channel, entertainment network Lad (Harmony), satellite station Belarus-TV
  • Nationwide TV (ONT) - a joint venture with Russia's Channel One; state holds a majority stake
  • STV (Stolichnoye Televideniye) - state-run, Minsk local broadcaster
  • Belsat - exile TV based in Poland, via satellite and internet


News agencies/internet

  • Belta - state-owned, English-language pages
  • Belapan - private, English-language pages
  • Charter 97 - opposition-leaning site, English-language pages