President of the Republic of Belarus since 1994
Predator since taking office but more so since August 2020
Belarus, 158th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: State terror
Labelled as “Europe’s last dictator” by the western media, Alexander Lukashenko has subjected journalists to an unprecedented level of persecution since his disputed reelection in August 2020. One of his priorities is preventing any media coverage of street protests and to this end he has carried out mass arrests of journalists, subjected them to threats, violence and even torture, disconnected the Internet and censored leading news websites and print media outlets.
He has also modified legislation in order to obstruct the media and criminalise their work. Journalists covering unauthorised events are now regarded as participants in the event. Livestreaming has been banned and the list of reasons for denying accreditation is now much longer. Trumped-up charges are now also part of his arsenal. The subservient judicial system has begun to treat the work of independent journalists as “extremism.” The scale of the crackdown has forced many journalists to flee abroad, especially to Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: Independent journalists, hounded relentlessly
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Radical
“Today, everyone must understand the precise aim with which biased information resources have been created in all countries – websites, Telegram channels, video blogs, social media groups and instant messaging services (...) it is important to understand that we don’t combat dissent or different opinions. It’s just that freedom of expression, which we protect constitutionally, has now become an extremist activity. We will fight against this with determination. We won’t back down.” (Comments made on 30 July 2021 to officials during a meeting to discuss social and political issues, including access to information in Belarus.)
“Don’t wait until the end of the election campaign. Throw them out now if they don’t respect our laws and try to reproduce [Ukraine’s Maidan revolution] here.” (In comments to government officials on 23 June 2020, accusing international media outlets, especially Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC, of causing rioting in Belarus).