Amendments to the law on mass media should be reversed and blocking of independent websites lifted.
Such a statement has been made in an address to Belarusian websites by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović. As said by herm amendments tightening government control of the Internet in Belarus pose a major threat to free speech and free media. The statement by Dunja Mijatović was published by the OSCE official website.
“These amendments are based on vaguely formulated legal provisions and give the state the vast right to interfere with any information posted on the Internet,” she wrote in the address. “They also impose quasi-censorship functions on disseminators of information”, she said.
“The Internet should remain a free space for citizens to exchange information and express critical views. The wide interpretation of these new amendments will result in excessive control of online content by the authorities.”
Dunja Mijatović noted that the legislation was adopted without proper public consultation. It will go into effect on 1 January 2015.
The OSCE representative has also condemned the intermittent blocking of independent online news platforms, including Charter97.org, Naviny.by, Belaruspartisan.org, as well as the website of BelaPAN information agency. Access to them for Belarusians is difficult or impossible.
We remind that on December 20 Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a new “Law on Mass Media”. According to it, all websites in Belarus have the same status as mass media and could be blocked for one violation. The bill was proposed by the Council of Ministers of Belarus and hastily passed by the “parliament”. The amendments had not been offered for public consultation.
Since December 19 the authorities of Belarus blocked a number of independent websites, including charter97.org. These online resources could not be accessed from the territory of Belarus, or access is hindered.