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English Section

Austrian-owned mobile operator helped block internet in Belarus: report

04.09.2020 06:30
An Austrian-owned mobile operator has had a hand in restricting internet access in Belarus amid protests against that country’s longtime strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, news outlets have reported.
Belarusian students during a protest in the capital Minsk on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.
Belarusian students during a protest in the capital Minsk on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.Photo: EPA/STRINGER

The operator, A1 Belarus, agreed to disable internet access for users during anti-government demonstrations and fed user data to the Lukashenko regime, Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper cited Austrian media as reporting.

Meanwhile, the Austrian government in early August condemned any attempts to limit internet access for citizens by authorities in Belarus, the Polish daily reported.

The government in Vienna said in a statement to the Austrian media at the time that it was unacceptable to force telecommunications operators to do so, according to Gazeta Wyborcza.

The statement was issued after Lukashenko’s government disrupted internet connectivity in Belarus in an attempt to stifle growing protests after that country's August 9 presidential election, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

According to the Polish paper, the Austrian government holds 28 percent of telecommunications company A1 Telekom, which in turn is the owner of A1 Belarus.

A1 Belarus has almost 5 million customers in that country of less than 10 million, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

The operator told Austrian journalists it was acting in accordance with Belarusian law, the Polish paper also reported.

It cited A1 Belarus as saying on Twitter that it had been acting after orders from state institutions.

A spokesman for A1 Telekom has denied claims that the Belarusian authorities have been provided with the personal data of protesters and government opponents, the Polish daily reported, citing Austria’s Wiener Zeitung newspaper.

(gs)

Source: onet.pl, wyborcza.pl