Belarus: legal proceedings against online satire

By EDRi · August 24, 2005

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (White Russia) apparently wasn’t
amused by some satirical animated cartoons about him. The Minsk office of
the Public Prosecutor started criminal proceedings against 3 activists
from the organisation Third Way ‘for insulting the President’. Such
behaviour can be punished with a maximum of 5 years prison sentence under
article 367 of the Belarussian Criminal Code.

The secret police carried out raids on three apartments in Minsk and
Grodno. The KGB confiscated at least 12 computers and material used to
produce the cartoons. The website administrators were interrogated for 5
hours and the person suspected of creating the Flash animations was
arrested, but later released.

The news source E-belarus reports about an interview given by one of the
administrators to Radio Freedom. According to him, “the Third Way had been
established by a group of students of the European Humanitarian University
which was closed by Belarussian authorities. At first it was just a club
of animated cartoons fans but later on it developed into a civil
initiative.”

The e-zine Heise quotes a German representative from Reporters without
Borders. Press spokesperson Katrin Evers accuses government of behaving
autocratically. “Every form of satire or criticism is being heavily
punished.” She added that at least 3 journalists have been convicted to
prison sentences for insulting the president. In the Belarus section of
the annual Internet under Surveillance report 2004, Reporters without
Borders state that Belarus only has one state-controlled ISP that controls
all internet traffic and doesn’t shy from blocking critical websites.

Third Way website
http://3dway.org

Criminal investigation on producers of anti-Lukashenko’s Internet cartoons
gets underway (19.08.2005)
http://www.e-belarus.org/news/200508191.html

Wei├črussland: KGB geht gegen Internet-Karikaturen vor (19.08.2005)
http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/62999

Internet under Surveillance 2004: Belarus
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10668