The further underground the content-creating process is pushed, the less effort journalists and editors put into fact-checking and attempts to remain neutral and observe journalistic ethics and current Belarusian law. By closing down traditional media with editorial staff and offices, the authorities are driving millions of their readers toward more polarized positions.

Pressure on the media is just one part of the ongoing turning of the screws of mass repression in Belarus. More than 35,000 people have been arrested, thousands have reported they were tortured or mistreated, and Belarus now has more than 400 people who are considered political prisoners. Over 3,000 criminal cases with political overtones have been opened: those who paid protesters’ fines, for example, are being charged with “financing unrest.”

The firing of disloyal medical staff, cultural figures, security service officers, teachers, and academics, and expulsion of students have become everyday occurrences. People have been kept in detention centers simply for having protest stickers on their laptop computers or putting paper snowflakes in their windows colored red and white (the colors of the protest movement).

Faced with the state’s heavy-handed approach, any hypothetical leader of the opposition who attempts to go down the road of peace and reconciliation with the authorities would find themselves without support from voters, destroying any chance of compromise as a way out of the political crisis. The regime has backed itself into a corner, and is now scared to ease up the pressure, fearing that if angry people are given more freedom, there could be a repetition of last August.