Information Ministry Targets Independent Websites
Several websites providing independent socio-political news have received letters from the Information Minister; the letters request information about owners of the websites and warn that the websites contain some “violations of the mass media legislation”.
Such letters were sent, for instance, to e-mail boxes of websites freeregion.info and racyja.com.
In both the letters, the Information Minister Liliya Ananich reminds that the owners can get an official warning for dissemination of untrue information which can harm state or public interests (point 1.2 of art. 49 of the Law on Mass Media). She underlined that the Ministry can block the resource after issuing two warnings, unless the website corrects the violations (point 1 of art. 51 of the Mass Media Law).
The editorial offices are to reply before May 15 for freeregion.info, and before May 20 – for Radio Racyja.
The chairperson of the Belarusian Radio Racyja remarked that, firstly, the mass media operates under jurisdiction of the Polish state; secondly, it has never concealed information about its status.
“We are an establishment operating under laws of the Polish state, all our data are provided on the website. When we apply for accreditation of our journalists to the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we submit full information…”
The situation led to assumptions that the Ministry of Information will soon try to block the resources.
Andrei Bastunets, chairperson, lawyer of BAJ, commented on the situation:
“Actions of the Ministry of Information stem from the authorities ignoring of the trans border nature of the Internet. I am convinced that dissemination of information on the web should be regulated by international agreements, and of not only state ones. The term “Internet governance” means coordinated actions of states, businesses and civil society. Otherwise, we’ll have what we have: The Ministry of Information is going to warn a Polish organization which is out of Belarus’s jurisdiction.
If we move this way, soon the rules on the web will be established by the most repressive states (like North Korea, for instance). I remark that Belarus is a party to the ICCPR, where article 19 guarantees freedom of expression regardless of borders, and the right can be restricted only with doubtless necessity of it in a democratic society.”
It should be mentioned that the administrative article 22.9 (envisaging fines for illegal production of mass media products) is used largely against people who contribute their materials to the Radio Racyja, alongside with Belsat. Some reporters of the Radio Racyja try to get accreditation, and aim to prove their right to report for the radio through courts. One such case is somewhere on the way to the Supreme Court, after seven refusals and dismissals of lower instance courts.