Senior Wikipedia editor arrested in Belarus

Belarus‘ Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and

Corruption GUBOPiK has detained prominent Wikipedia editor and 56-

year-old businessman Mark Bernstein, according to the Belarusian newspaper Zirkalo.

The arrest comes after Bernstein’s personal information was shared via the public GOBUPiK channel within Telegram. Bernstein is one of the 50 best editors of Russian Wikipedia.

Bernstein’s information – including social media, interactions with Wikipedia, and workplace – was shared in the GUBOPik channel via the messaging app.

A video of Bernstein’s arrest was also released along with his photo and personal data. Bernstein faces charges of spreading false anti-Russian information.

Zerkalo also reported that Berstein had been accused of editing Wikipedia articles about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, none of the information on Telegram channels clearly defines what charges, if any, are officially brought against Bernstein.

According to Bernstein’s Wikimedia username activity log, he has made more than 200,000 edits to articles for the Russian edition of the world’s encyclopedia. His account is currently being described as being banned indefinitely.

On the Russian Global Encyclopedia channel via Telegram, users in Belarus and Russia were also advised to hide personal data and edit articles related to the war only from other accounts.

Wikipedia continues to be targeted

Belarus offered logistical support throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It served as a staging area for units moving towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

  • Ukraine said that Belarus may be planning to join the invasion with its army, alleging that Russia launched a false attack to implicate the country.
  • Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law on fake news. The law punishes people who spread false news with up to 15 years in prison.
  • Roskomnadzor, the country’s technology, and communications agency, also threatened to block the world’s encyclopedia because of a Russian-language page on the current invasion of Ukraine. At that time, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a statement in support of the Russian Wikipedia editors.

A spokesperson for the Wikimedia Foundation said the group is closely monitoring the situation. “The foundation’s trust, safety, and human rights teams have been monitoring the ongoing crisis in Ukraine,” he added. We are in close contact with our communities in the region to ensure their safety and respond to their needs.

Hana Lyubakova, whose Twitter account identifies her as a Belarusian journalist and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, tweeted that Bernstein is known around the world and stated that Wikipedia was a danger to the system.

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