Increased Internet censorship in Belarus

By EDRi · July 14, 2010

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Deutsch: [Zunehmende Internetzensur in Weißrussland |]

The Belarus government has adopted new measures increasing the control of
the Internet and restrictions on online freedom of expression.

Following Decree no.60 (On measures for improving use of the national
Internet network) issued on 1 February 2010 by President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka, Belarus Council of Ministers adopted five resolutions with new
Internet regulations introducing the compulsory registration of all web
sites and the collection of personal data of Internet cafe users.

The decree will enter fully into force on 1 September but the police has
already started interrogations and equipment seizures in a campaign meant to
intimidate Internet users and online journalists. According to the new
regulations, all ISPs on the territory of Belarus, irrespective of their
commercial or non-commercial nature, must register with the Communication
and Information Ministry and provide technical details about online
information resources, networks and systems used to connect to the Internet,
including computers and mobile phones.

The Council of Ministers issued on 29 April 2010 a decree “On some questions
of improving usage of the national segment of global Internet computer
network” according to which the information on registered Internet resources
gathered by a registering organisation is to be further on passed to the
Operative-Analytical Center. The body created by the same Decree no.60
will be subordinated to the President’s office and will have the task to
monitor the content before it is put online, meaning it will actually be a
censorship organism. At the request of the Center, ISPs are to close down
any website within 24 hours.

The Belarusian State Telecommunication Inspection will make a list of
forbidden websites on the ground of proposals of appropriate governmental
bodies. If a Belarusian site is included on the blacklist, the owner will
receive a notice about that. The blacklist will further on be published on
the Telecommunication Inspection website, but the national ISPs may extend
that if they want.

Also any person accessing the Internet in an Internet café or using a shared
connection with one, must provide an identification document and a record of
all his (her) online connections will be kept for a year.

Based on the new legislation, Beltelecom, the state-own ISP has recently
blocked access to, Vitebsky Kuryer’s newspaper’s
website which had not registered with the authorities for ideological
reasons. The reasons are actually political ones as the site criticized
local and national policies. The decree appears to be in fact aimed at
blocking opposition’s Internet resources in view of the upcoming
presidential elections.

The decree has been strongly opposed and criticized by the media community
and international human rights organizations, including OSCE. Nine members
of the National Bolshevik Party who made an unauthorised demonstration on
the Freedom Square in Minsk on 23 June 2010, waving placards and wearing
T-shirts with the words “Internet Freedom”, were arrested, convicted and
fined for the infringement of the procedures for holding demonstrations.

Authorities step up Internet restrictions, harassment of online journalists

All legal sites placed in .by domain will be obliged to move to Belarusian
hosting (27.05.2010)

Full text of Internet censorship regulation released in Belarus (6.07.2010)

No Entry to Belarusian Internet Cafes without Passport (2.07.2010)

EDRi-gram: New Belarus Internet regulations require compulsory web
registration (19.05.2010)