MINSK, Belarus — Authorities in Belarus have detained six journalists in what is being seen by rights activists as an attack on freedom of speech.
Belarus' Investigative Committee on Thursday confirmed the detention of six journalists, including Deutsche Welle's Paulyuk Bykowski. DW lodged a protest.
Authorities say the journalists are charged with getting unsanctioned access to state news agency BelTA, and failing to pay for its information. They face up to two years in prison if convicted.
Belarusian rights activist Alex Bialiatski denounced the detentions as an attempt by authorities to establish control over leading online media, noting that the "government decided to establish full control over the internet."
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 10 million since 1994, cracking down on dissent and free media and maintaining Soviet-style control over its economy.