A. Bastunets: ‘There are more cons than pros in the on-line media registration’

2013 2013-11-21T13:19:48+0300 2013-11-21T13:19:48+0300 en

Dzmitry Shadko, Deputy Minister of Information announced elaboration of amendments to the Belarus’ Mass Media Law with the purpose of ‘effective response to negative social phenomena’ that may lead to obligatory registration of on-line publications as media outlets on November 19, 2013.

The legal initiative was presented as a means of holding anti-alcohol and anti-drug propaganda among teenagers at a session of Committee on Minors at the Council of Ministers of Belarus. The working group intends ‘to make the most popular and influential on-line resources responsible for distribution of any information’ and ‘deprive them of registration certificates’ in case of grave violations of the law.

The Deputy Minister of Information added that the personnel problem should be solved in order to counteract to the negative social phenomena in the Internet. ‘There have to be on-line media editorials to hold the propaganda work in coordination with psychologists, journalists, and other specialists,’ the state-owned BelTA News Agency reported.

At the same time, the Deputy Chairperson of Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets believes that the innovations in the law may lead to much more negative than positive consequences.

- Firstly, I would like to draw attention to the context of the statement. The proposal wasn’t aimed at creating additional opportunities for the journalists of on-line resources or recognizing their official journalist status. Just on the contrary, it was directed to introduce responsibilities of media outlets for on-line resources. The restrictive approach is evident here.

The current Mass Media law envisages a possibility of registration of Web-portals and on-line resources as media outlets. However, the Council of Ministers has to adopt provisions on regulation of Web-media activity and their registration to comply with the law.

The authorities haven’t outlined the features of on-line media yet. Moreover, the notion of ‘the most influential media’ appears to be quite vague.

…Even the print media are not registered by official authorities in the civilized world, to say nothing about on-line media. In Belarus, there has been taken record of more than 100 refusals to register the print media outlets since a couple of years only. Therefore, it’s quite possible that a similar situation will happen with on-line resources, if their registration or re-registration gets started in Belarus.

In short, the positive features of the legislative initiative include the possibility for on-line media workers to confirm their journalist status, since they can get the officially recognized press IDs from the registered editorials only. Also, theoretically, the on-line journalists will be entitled to getting press credentials at the state bodies.

The cons seem to prevail. Firstly, the on-line media outlets will have to be registered as editorials, i.e. legal entities. Private entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens won’t act as editorials, since they will have to locate their offices in the officially rented office premises and keep books. Moreover, the Editor-in-chief will have to be a university graduate and prove his/her 5-year experience of work at a managerial position in the field.

Finally, the on-line media will take responsibilities, envisaged by the current media law. In particular, the official authorities will get a possibility to notify the media outlets and punish them under the administrative law that may lead to their closure, - A. Bastunets said.