Increased Internet censorship in Belarus
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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 kurier.vitebsk.by, 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.
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