New law on mass media has come into force
On 8 February there came into force the new edition of the law On mass media which had received serious criticism from the side of the Belarusian journalists.
The law was adopted by the Chamber of Representatives in June 2008 and confirmed by Alexander Lukashenka on 17 July.
The law determines the order of founding, the state registration, re-registration and distribution of mass media. It also regulates the juridical relations in the sphere of mass information, the relations of mass media with state organs, legal entities and physical bodies and determines the penalties for different law violations.
According to this law, all mass media who successfully passed the procedure of registration at the Ministry of Information, must be introduced in the appropriate state register. The share of foreign capital in the charter fund of mass media must not exceed 30%.
The law prohibits the action of unaccredited journalists in Belarus. Mass media can be punished for ‘distribution of false information that can be harmful to the state or public interests’.
The adoption of this law caused a great public resonance. Representatives of the independent Belarusian press stated that it put new restrictions on the activism of mass media and journalists and the international organizations called on the authorities to put the law in line with the international standards.
Meanwhile, at the briefing of 6 February the vice-minister of information Liliya Ananich stated that the new law On mass media ‘considerably simplified the state registration of editions’.
‘From now on mass media can be punished not for law violations in general, but only for violations of the law On mass media, where there is an exhausting enumeration of the reasons for which a mass media can be issued a warning or its issue can be suspended,’ she said.
The vice-minister also informed the public that the Ministry of Information did not intend to subject internet resources to a procedure of registration similar to that of the national mass media.
On 4 February the Ministry of Information held a round table on the issues of the legislation on mass media with participation of Belarusian officials, OSCE, the European Commission and journalists.