Why Europe’s Last Dictator May Suddenly Need Uncensored TV

Belarus may lose the only TV channel that dares to criticize its dictator. And that could be bad news for Lukashenko himself.

On a spring morning in 2008, two Belarusian television journalists took the elevator to the sixth floor of a residential block in Minsk. They work for Belarus’ only uncensored broadcaster, Belsat TV, and one of the apartments doubles as their office. Only a year old at the time, the channel was already winning a growing audience for its reports on corruption and intimidation in a country dubbed “Europe’s last dictatorship.”

As the elevator doors opened, plainclothes intelligence officers ambushed the journalists, demanding that they open the apartment door. The officers — agents of what is still known as the KGB, the Soviet-era name for Belarus’s secret services — forced one of the journalists, Michal Janczuk, to the ground, twisting his arm behind his back before ripping the keys from his hand. And once inside, the KGB men stripped the apartment of its camera and editing equipment. “They even took our forks,” recalls Sergei Kruchkou, the other journalist present that day. What neither Kruchkou nor Janczuk knew at the time was that the KGB were raiding the homes of dozens of Belsat’s reporters at the same time.