The human rights watchdog Amnesty International said that Belarusian authorities are carrying out a “full-scale purge of dissenting voices” ahead of the August 9 presidential election.

The government is using “repressive laws to stifle criticism ahead of the elections, where president Alexander Lukashenko is running for the sixth consecutive term”, Aisha Jung, the watchdog’s senior campaigner on Belarus, said on Friday.

Jung said that at least three opposition bloggers were arrested the day before, while two others are already under arrest. “Opposition candidates, supporters, and independent media have faced arbitrary arrest, hefty fines, and incarceration”, she said.

“Now those active on social media are being targeted. Nobody should be punished for using the Internet to express opinions about the government and its policies”, Jung warned.

Earlier, dozens of activists and politicians were arrested during protests against Lukashenko’s seeking of another term. Last year’s parliamentary election excluded the opposition, with all 110 parliament seats going to former government functionaries, diplomats and members of pro-government parties.

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