Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno, Belarus
Belarus is discussing new amendments to the law on mass media, the task of which is “to protect people from destructive information”.
Internet resources offer to voluntarily register as a media. From now on, the “network publication” is obliged to become a legal entity, with a legal address on the premises of a non-residential fund and an editor with a Belarusian passport and at least five years of work experience in management positions in the media.
While it is possible not to register, but in this case, the owners and reporters of such Internet resources are not recognized by journalists, are not entitled to receive and protect the source of information, and when appearing on mass actions are equal to demonstrators.
New rules of the law introduce mandatory identification of persons posting materials or comments on any (registered and not) sites and forums; mandatory moderation; allow blocking of social networks and restricting access to Internet resources out of court.
In contrast to the “tough” law adopted in 2014, according to estimates of human rights defenders and a number of journalistic organizations, the law on the media, amendments to existing legislation were made public ahead of time and caused an active discussion.
Both supporters and critics of the amendments sent to parliament agree: the decision is predetermined.
But how can this work?
If the scheme of control and punishment of registered and unregistered media has been tested by current laws, then the innovation on identification on forums and social networks is called by critics the flight of administrative fantasies.
The deputy minister of information in an interview with the largest Belarusian portal TUT.by explained that Internet commentators do not intend to deprive their nicknames, but the owner of the portal should have real information about them in order to bring the “anonymous” to responsibility in case of violation of current laws and moral standards.
Ministry of Information proposes to replace the existing registration forms on the forums with SMS registration and already has the ability to block social networks.
There are no domestic social networks in Belarus.
“It seems that after changing the top team in the Ministry of Information, there are no people using the Internet. But newspaper reporters do not understand that changing a source of information or a place to discuss news from Belarusian to foreign is made by the user in one click without any permission from the state and completely free. identification of users will lead to their outcome on foreign sites, where there are no restrictions and you can write in Russian. ”
Developers of amendments to the law on mass media recognize that bylaws, decrees and instructions are needed to implement the decision on blocking and mandatory identification of writers, writers or speakers.
But dozens of analysts and Internet users are wondering: what else to toughen, when any site can be legally blocked in Belarus within minutes without a trial?
The opposition website “Charter97” blocked a few months ago is not officially available to users in Belarus; subjected to blocking “Belarusian partisan”, yielding to the requirements of the ministry of information, moved to the .by zone and refused to publish comments.
“The idea of equating traditional media and internet media with rights and duties is fair,” writes Yury Zisser, founder and co-owner of the Belarusian Internet resource TUT.BY. “It is not clear why this should be done by tightening regulation of Internet media, and not vice versa – by completely or partially removing existing redundant requirements for traditional media “.
Does Belarus expect a referendum?
Analysts in Minsk are sure: the strengthening of control over the press indicates the approach of political and economic tests for the authorities.