Andrei Bastunets: It is mechanism of obviously repressive character
Websites will be blocked within 24 hours, but restoring access to them will take months.
Andrei Bastunets, the deputy head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), talked to the BAJ press service about the Ruling to restrict access to information resources on the Internet that was adopted by the Operative and Analytical centre and the Ministry of Communication on February 19.
“We could foresee the main ideas of the ruling, because both presidential decree No.6 (On urgent measures to counter the illegal traffic of drugs) and the law on mass media contained most of the ideas, which mechanisms have been proposed by the ruling,” Andrei Bastunets thinks.
“It follows from the ruling that access to blacklisted sites will be blocked. Only few persons will be able to visit them.
Secondly, any government body can contribute to the formation of the blacklist. It just need to inform the Ministry of Information about the sites that, in its opinion, violate legislation.
The third and the most important point is that the process doesn't require any judicial procedures. All work will be done by only state bodies and the Ministry of Information. You cannot appeal to a court against their decisions. The ruling says that even anonymisers can be blocked. Again, we expected it.”
The lawyer notes that not only websites but also blogs can be blocked. The document can hit a large number of resources.
“It is a mechanism of the obviously repressive character. It does not comply with the principle of freedom of expression. The right to apply the mechanism was given to the bodies that do not respect the basic principles. It becomes clear that we have no opportunities to appeal against their decisions except for appealing to these government bodies.”
Andrei Bastunets stresses the difference between the time needed to take the decision to block access and the time needed to restore it:
“When it comes to the restriction of access, they have three days or even 24 hours (the deadline for ISPs to block access). But what concerns restoring access to sites (after the correction of errors in accordance with the law on mass media), the Ministry of Information have a month to consider applications. It vividly demonstrates the approach to the issue.”