Harlem Désir has completed the three-day official visit to Minsk.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today concluded a three-day official visit to Minsk. In his discussions with the Belarusian authorities, he called on the government to undertake the reforms necessary for developing a more favourable and pluralistic media environment.
During the visit, Désir met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei; Minister of Information Aliaksandr Karliukevich; and Chair of the Committee on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media at the House of Representatives of the National Assembly Andrei Naumovich, to discuss challenges to media freedom and other areas.
Désir also met with representatives of the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Belarusian Union of Journalists, as well as journalists and media experts. He also held talks with journalists affected by the BelTA case.
In his talks with the authorities, the Representative underlined that the current legislation still contains many provisions that restrict the work of media outlets and journalists. They include criminal defamation and insult, which negatively affect media freedom and create a broader “chilling effect” on the right to freedom of expression.
“The authorities should promote laws and regulations that protect the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the media and facilitate greater media pluralism online and offline,” said Désir.
The Representative further reiterated his call on the authorities to change the accreditation requirements for journalists, and introduce more effective ways to access information.“This is a long-standing issue which my Office has previously raised with the authorities on several occasions. Accreditation requirements should be reconsidered, so as to improve the working conditions of media actors rather than functioning as a work permit, preventing journalists from doing their work,” Désir said.
Désir also encouraged the authorities to start effectively de-monopolizing state-owned media outlets and transforming the state broadcaster into a genuine public service media outlet, as well as introducing mechanisms that will foster transparent competition in the market, and equal access of all media to state support and advertising market.
The Representative reiterated his call on the authorities to ensure unrestricted access to the Internet, and to unblock the most popular news website Charter97.org.
Désir encouraged the authorities to prioritize freedom of expression and media freedom in any future regulation of online space and to reconsider existing measures that tighten state control of the internet, including the broad possibility to interfere with any information posted online.
The Representative noted that it is important to refrain from excessive measures and practices regarding internet intermediaries, imposition of registration requirements and the users’ right to anonymity.
“Restrictions to online content must be narrowly defined and limited to content such as violent extremism, Nazism or racism to avoid a broad and disproportionate impact on freedom of expression,” said Desir.
“Blocking powers that the executive authorities have must be overseen by independent judiciary,” he added.
Désir expressed the readiness of his Office in providing Belarus with expert recommendations, in line with OSCE media freedom commitments and best practices, and encouraged the authorities to more actively engage civil society in discussions on the reform process.
Important to note, on January 24, 2018, Lukashenka’s regime blocked the independent news website Charter97.org. The blocking was confirmed by first Deputy Minister of Information Ihar Lutski. The Ministry of Information is headed by Aliaksandr Karliukevich.
You can bypass the block and here are the instructions:
- The easiest way to read the Charter'97
- How to bypass the blocking of the Charter’97 website
- How to bypass the site block on Android and iOS
- Change the DNS on your computer and read the Charter’97
- Read the Charter’97 in the social networks.
Important to note, on September 3 Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org Natallia Radzina announced the threat to the informational resource caused by the drastic reduction in financing, and called readers for solidarity.