18 August 2005

KGB censors satirical Internet cartoons

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the raids carried out on 16 August by the Belarusian secret police, the KGB, on three apartments in Minsk and the western city of Grodno allegedly belonging to young members of the Third Way opposition movement who create satirical, animated cartoons (in Flash format) for Internet distribution.

The KGB confiscated at least 12 computers and material used to produced the cartoons, and interrogated three Third Way members.

"This harassment is yet another example of the authoritarianism prevailing in Belarus," Reporters Without Borders said. "Any sarcasm and criticism of the authorities is severely punished. Three journalists have been given prison terms for 'insulting the president' in recent years and it would be intolerable if these young Internet users were now to suffer the same fate."

Pavel Morozov, 26, one of those allegedly in charge of the website on which the cartoons were being posted (, said he and two of his colleagues were questioned for five hours and were accused of besmirching the honour of President Alexander Lukashenko. He was ordered to stay in Minsk.

Created a year ago, the website published two-minute-long animated cartoons satirizing Belarusian politicians, opposition leaders and ordinary people. Some of the cartoons were about Lukashenko and electoral fraud, Belarus' isolation and Lukashenko's well-known fondness for sports. The Third Way members drew the cartoons at home and circulated them among themselves by e-mail.

The three who were questioned are for the time being treated by the authorities as witnesses in the investigation, but it is likely that they could be charged soon, in which case they could face up to five years in prison under article 367 of the criminal code.