Belarus strongly censors the Internet

By EDRi · January 18, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Weißrussland übt starke Internetzensur aus |]

— Article corrected on 23.01.2012—-

6 January 2012 saw the application of the Belarusian law imposing even
more restrictions on online free expression in a country that is already
viewed as a dictatorship.

Thus, a new law is enacting the sanctions applied for the violation of the decree issued in February 2010 by President Alyaksandr Lukashenko (and entered into force in July 2010). According to the act, anyone going online in an Internet café or using a shared connection will have to identify themselves, and a record logs will be kept for a year.

Belarus is already listed as a country “under surveillance” in the Reporters
Without Borders annual report on “Enemies of the Internet” and is ranked
154th out of 178 countries in the 2010 press freedom index.

The violation of the act, punishable by fines of up to about 100 euro will apply to legal entities and entrepreneurs and ISPs will be liable for the actions of their users.

In carrying out its online activities, any business in the country will be have to host their content in Belarus. The text is unclear about international websites (such as Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter) that target belarusian users. Even Google may question its position as it hosts its website in US.

Not only ISPs are liable for their users’ activities online but home
Internet subscribers are also considered liable for others who might share
their connections with them.

ISPs are expected to monitor foreign website use and report the findings to
authorities just as the simple citizens sharing an Internet connection with
others are expected to report any law infringement.

A list of banned sites is issued by the State Inspection on Electronic
Communications on the basis of decisions by several institutions such as the
Operational and Analytical Centre and the criteria for the inclusion of
sites on the list include content that is pornographic or advocates violence
or “extremism”, which, as proven several times, is vague enough to lead to
abuse and overblocking.

Thus, the authorities may draw up a list of banned sites the access to which
must be blocked by ISPs at 24 hours’ notice in official institutions and
cultural and educational institutions. Websites such as news Charter97,
Belaruspartisan, and the blog of the humorist Yauhen Lipkovich, which are
critical to the government or the President, are already on the blacklist.

After Lukashenko has taken all the measures to eliminate any opposition, the
Internet has practically remained the only environment to apply pressure on
the regime. A Facebook group “Wanted criminals in civilian clothes”, blogs
and all helped in exposing the regime’s crimes and abuses.
This made the Internet a target for the government, hence the present
restrictive legislation.

Belarus Bans Browsing of All Foreign Websites (3.01.2012)

Belarus authorities turn up the heat on the Internet (6.01.2012),41634.html

Internet in Belarus, November 2011 (4.01.2012)

In Belarus, the freedom of the internet is at stake (6.01.2012)

Internet Regulation in Belarus (4.01.2012)

Browsing Foreign Web Sites is not a Crime in Belarus (6.01.2012)