Law ‘On mass media’ adopted
According to the information of the information agencies BelTA and Interfax with reference to the presidential press-service, Alexander Lukashenka has signed the law On mass media. Six months after its official publication the law will come into force. Neither of the agencies called the date when the document was signed.
Bear in mind that at the end of the last week the press-service of the head of the state was not able to give any information about it to the Belarusian Association of Journalists. On 5 August the National center of legal information informed the BAJ that such a document had not been received by them.
The draft law was approved by the Soviet of the Republic on 28 August after being adopted in two readings by the Chamber of Representatives on 17 and 24 June. In the middle of July the document was considered by the Constitutional Court of Belarus and then was passed to the president.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists several times asked the deputies to direct the document for international expertise and proposed its own expert evaluation which had been prepared by the organization’s lawyers. In particular, the lawyers pointed at a number of repressive norms contained in the document: the regulation of the internet-sphere by the government’s rulings, restriction of foreign investments in mass media, the necessity of re-registering of mass media after adoption of the law, extension of the number of the officials who could issue warnings, simplification of the procedure of liquidation of mass media, etc. The deputies took some of these remarks into consideration in the second reading, but the most repressive norms, including the ones related to regulation of the internet, were left in the text of the law.
In June and July this year a number of international organizations addressed the Belarusian authorities calling them to abstain from adoption of this law in the present variant and proposed expert aid in its amendment.
In particular, such addresses were sent by the OSCE representative on freedom of mass media Miklosz Haraszti, the PACE reporter on Belarus Andrea Rigoni, the International Federation of Journalists, the global campaign for free expression Article 19, Reporters without Borders, Civil Belarus (Czech), Human Rights House Foundation (Norway), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Norwegian union of journalists, the Norwegian PEN-center, the Danish union of journalists, the editorial board of the Index of Censorship magazine.