The Belarus Service’s reporting on the civil unrest that spread throughout Belarus in February and March 2017 led to significant spikes in traffic to its online platforms. Though this unfortunately resulted in increased harassment of RFE/RL reporters, many protest participants such as Zmitser Dashkevich, who praised the Service for being “the first on the scene,” expressed their appreciation for the increased coverage.
Protests first began in February 2017 at Kurapaty, the infamous site of Stalin-era mass graves where officials planned to begin construction on an office building. As a result of the protests, which gained visibility from reporting by RFE/RL Belarus Service, city authorities in Minsk agreed to temporarily suspend the controversial project.
The Service simultaneously covered nationwide unrest over a proposed tax on “social parasites,” which on March 9 was suspended by President Lukashenka for the remainder of 2017. The country’s largest regional protests in years occurred in cities throughout Belarus, such as Vitebsk, Brest, and Baranavichy. Live-streamed video coverage of a March 25 protest in Minsk, as well as a subsequent police crackdown that resulted in hundreds of arrests, generated 3 million Twitter views, 1.3 million YouTube views, 850,000 Facebook views and hundreds of thousands of views on the Russian social media sites VKontakte and Odnoklassniki.