15 October 2021, Friday, 22:42
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OSCE fears the Belarusian law on Internet is directed against independent websites


The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has prepared an expert examination of Lukashenka’s decree on Internet censorship.

The document has already been sent to the Belarusian authorities. It contains both advantages and disadvantages of the decree from the point of view of international experts on freedom of speech, the press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reports.

This is said in the regular report to the Permanent Council by the OSCE by Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. The report was issued on March 4.

The OSCE experts express their concern over the following provisions of the decree:

– The law obliges owners and administrators of Internet clubs and cafes to carry out identification of their visitors, keep their records and store their personal data. The same rule of identification applies to technical means of Internet service users used to connect to Internet access.

– It is unclear who and how will determine the essence of information in relation to which a request to limit access has been received. The definitions of types of harmful information under Belarusian legislation allow for legal ambiguity of categories.

– In the event of failure to comply with an order by a relevant body to liquidate violations or to suspend Internet services, the responsibility for content is transferred to Internet service providers, owners and administrators of places of collective Internet use.

– The list of information which must be displayed on the websites of state bodies and other public organizations is quite limited.

In view of the abovementioned concerns, and the decree’s deadline for the implementation rules by 1 May 2010, following recommendations were made by the expert in accordance with the OSCE commitments regarding freedom of the media.

– Abolish mandatory identification of Internet service users and their technical means used to connect to the Internet.

– Clarify the meaning and procedure of introducing limitations and bans on spreading illegal information.

– Clarify the scope of responsibility of Internet service providers in the event of failure to comply with an order by a relevant body to liquidate violations or to suspend Internet services.

– Envision requiring state bodies and other public organizations to publish information not only on their activities, but also information which results from these activities.

– Abolish the requirement to include hyperlinks to the original information source in materials of a media outlet disseminated via the Internet.

“I hope that these suggestions will be taken into consideration when developing further legislation which concerns the Internet in Belarus,” Miklos Haraszti noted. “My Office will continue to assist Belarus with its media law reforms. Together with the authorities in Minsk, it could organize a roundtable on the developments in the field of Internet legislation.”