Belarusian Students’ Association’s Instagram Page Labelled as Extremist
The European Students’ Union (ESU) stands in solidarity with the Belarusian Students’ Association (BSA) against the Belarusian government’s decision to classify BSA’s Instagram account as extremist on July 4th.
BSA’s platform serves as a vital channel for information, consolidation, and connection to the students they advocate for and represent. BSA strongly stands for critical democratic principles advocating for self government of students, general protest against and reformation of authoritarian systems and providing crucial services for students. By labelling their Instagram as extremist, the government is undermining student rights, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights. Moreover, despite BSA following the community guidelines of Instagram, the consequences of such labelling are severe criminal or administrative liability, as outlined in Article 19.11 of the Belarusian Administrative Code and Article 361-4 of the Belarusian Criminal Code.
The decision by the Belarusian illegitimate Lukashenka regime showcases a continued reprehensible pattern of suppressing students’ voices, principles of democracy, and human rights. Students were and are a major driving force of the democratic opposition. As such, student initiatives have been and are continuously being targeted. Any association with mislabeled extremist material is penalised, making it dangerous for students from Belarus to follow the social media accounts of BSA, as well as any other organisation labelled as allegedly extremist. This undermines not only the BSA’s outreach and ability to organise without fear of reprisal but also the ability of the Belarusian general public to receive information through opposition media.
Taking this into consideration, we strongly condemn the decision to label the BSA’s Instagram page as extremist material. This is a clear violation of freedom of expression and an attack on the principles of democracy. Therefore, we call on the international community to condemn these actions and stand in support with the Belarusian students. Moreover, in line with the EU’s recent efforts to support independent Russian and Belarusian journalists in the EU through a newly established media hub, we call on similar efforts for Belarusian civil society organisations affected by the labelling as “extremist”.