Decree of the Council of Ministers No. 644 of April 29, 2010, “On Some Questions of Improving Usage of the National Segment of the Global Internet Computer Network.” Decree of the President of Belarus No. 60 of February 1, 2010, available in Russian at http://www.mininform.gov.by/documentation; “Decree on Internet Limitations Prepared in Belarus (Text of the Document)”, Charter 97, December 14, 2009, http://www.charter97.org/en/news/2009/12/14/24572/.
“Положение о порядке взаимодействия операторов электросвязи с КГБ и ОАЦ утверждено указом №129 от марта 2010 года” [Regulations on electronic communications providers cooperation with the KGB and OAC introduced by the Decree No129, March 3, 2010], Telegraf.by, March 10, 2010, http://telegraf.by/2010/03/polnij-tekst-polozhenija-o-dostupek-abonentskim-bazam-operatorov-svjazi.html.
“БелГИЭ приступила к формированию "черного списка” [State Supervisory Body for Telecommunications Started Forming the “Black List”] Electroname, July 9, 2010, http://www.electroname.com/story/7329.
“Списки ограниченного доступа” [Lists of Restricted Access], Ministry of Telecommunications, http://belgie.by/node/216, accessed on February 20, 2010.
BELARUS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Even before Presidential Decree No. 60, the government engaged in ad hoc efforts to limit access to certain content deemed contrary to its interests. For example, a number of opposition websites and independent media were blocked during the presidential election of September 2001. Similarly, access to a website containing cartoons about President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was blocked in August 2005.18 Beltelecom typically cited technical problems for the blockages.19 In addition, Russian gay and lesbian websites were blocked since 2005 at the order of a government commission tasked with combating pornography and violence, marking the only case of a formal decision to block particular content.
Self-censorship has become a pervasive phenomenon for both traditional and webbased media. Like their counterparts working for print outlets, television, and radio stations, online commentators and administrators of web portals avoid posting content that could put them at odds with the government. Moreover, the government uses indirect economic pressure to undercut financial support for certain sites. There is an unofficial blacklist of independent online outlets, and major advertising companies are advised not to place their ads on these sites.
In 2005 the popular Belarusian portal TUT.BY refused to put up banners advertising opposition websites. It is unknown whether this was a result of pressure from the authorities or merely an attempt by the site to protect its business.20 In 2009, TUT.BY tightened control over discussion forums by employing moderators to screen comments before they are posted. The portal’s owner claimed that the new policy, which applied only to news discussions, was simply aimed at blocking vulgar language and other such disruptions.Print outlets, television, and radio continue to be the main sources of news and information for most Belarusians, though there are increasing efforts to extend mainstream news to online platforms. Traditional media still have a much stronger presence in society than new media, and the internet is viewed more as a source of entertainment or as a place to state contesting opinions. However, web-based independent media played a much more visible role and attracted larger readership in advance of the 2010 elections than previously.
While the potential role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in election campaigning in Belarus was understood as early as 2001, it was only in 2006 that the use of the internet during elections became visible. Blogs, forums, LiveJournal online communities, and so-called flash mobs—public gatherings organized via ICTs—were prominent features of the 2006 presidential election campaign. Independent online sources managed to compete with state-controlled newspapers, radio, and television, at least for the minority who had occasional access to internet. Unfortunately, although popular, blogs do Mikhail Doroshevich, “Internet Filtering in Belarus,” E-Belarus.org, March 20, 2006, http://www.ebelarus.org/news/200603201.html.
Mikhail Doroshevich, “Gays and Lesbians Web-sites Blocked in Belarus,” E-Belarus.org, January 31, 2005, http://www.ebelarus.org/news/200501311.html.
“Country Profiles: Belarus,” OpenNet Initiative, May 9, 2007, http://opennet.net/research/profiles/belarus.
Mikhail Doroshevich, “TUT.BY Premoderates Forums,” E-Belarus.org, January 22, 2009, http://www.ebelarus.org/news/200901221.html.
BELARUS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net not have a major influence on political life. There is little information on the use of mobilephone text messaging, or short-message service (SMS), in political agitation. Supporters of opposition presidential candidates used SMS to mobilize people to participate in national elections in 2006, 22 although this method was not extensively used in 2010.
There have been some successful cases of online information and activism campaigns.
In 2007, Belarusian blogger Yevgeny Lipkovich pushed the government to resume production of low-fat kefir in Minsk.23 In 2008, discussions in the blogosphere prompted legislators to take notice of the illegal practices of Belarusian traffic police, and the courts took action in response.24 There was one case in 2009 in which an online community announced itself as a political movement, but there have been no further signs of any activity by the group.Because Belarusian users have access to most online resources under ordinary circumstances, they generally do not employ proxy servers and other circumvention tools, leaving them vulnerable during the politically sensitive periods when many ad hoc disruptions occur. Most often, people are reminded about blocking only when it happens.The most popular circumvention tools are proxies and TOR.27 The main educational proxy server, sofia.niks.by, reportedly limits access to sites with illegal or erotic content, but students are able to bypass the restrictions using other proxies and tools.VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS Civil rights, including the right to access information and freedom of expression, are guaranteed by the Belarusian constitution, although they remain severely restricted in practice. A 2008 law identified online news outlets as “mass media,” and Article 33 requires every such website to include the names of the publication, its founder(s), and its chief “АГП: Правакацыйныя ўлёткі ніхто не зрывае” [UCP: nobody tears off provocative leaflets], Naviny.by, March 18, 2006, http://www.nn.by/index.phpc=ar&i=882&p=1&c2=calcym&combo_calmonth=1&combo_calyear=2009.
“Блогер выиграл битву за кефир!” [Blogger has won the kefir battle], Tut.by, January 27,2007, http://news.tut.by/it/100534.html; “Эпическая битва Липковича за обезжиренный кефир” [Lipkovich’s Epic Battle Over Kefir,” blog, November 26, 2007, http://angry-boar.livejournal.com/54957.html.
“Скандал вокруг «живого щита»” [The scandal around ‘human shields”], Navuny.by, October 30,2008, http://naviny.by/popular/ic_popular_240_99/; “Гаишники, устроившие «живой щит», показали лица” [Road policemen showed their faces], Kp.ru, April 19, 2008, http://kp.ru/daily/24084/317576/.
Mikhail Doroshevich, “Belarus: Virtual Community Moves to Real World,” E-Belarus.org, October 1, 2009, http://www.ebelarus.org/news/200910011.html.
“ЖЖ заблокировано” [LJ is blocked],Community.livejournal.com/minsk_by, January 10, 2008, http://community.livejournal.com/minsk_by/4402235.html.
“Как обойти блокировку сайта”[How to circumvent a website blockade], Charter 97, January 18, 2008, http://www.charter97.org/be/news/2008/1/18/3107/.
“Байнет отдыхает: в гроднонете вводится цензура” [Bynet is having a rest, Grodnonet is being censored], Blog Grodno, November 22, 2006, http://s13.ru/archives/327.
BELARUS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net editors, as well as the full address of the editorial office and the registration number.Formally, there are no laws assigning criminal penalties or civil liability specifically for online activities, but internet activities can be prosecuted under laws applicable to mass media—mainly for defamation—or under any relevant criminal law. In addition, government officials have stressed the need to hold site owners and service providers legally accountable for illegal content, and to provide them with the tools to block such content.According to informal rules and practices, ISPs are obliged to give the authorities statistical data—separated by user—about site visits, traffic, and other topics. Mobile-phone companies are required to turn over similar data when asked by the government. Individuals are not required to register when they buy a mobile phone, but registration is needed to buy a SIM card and obtain a number.
Surveillance of cybercafes was stepped up in 2007. Under new regulations adopted by the cabinet in February of that year,31 cafe owners must keep a 12-month history of the domain names accessed by users. State officials are authorized to review the log under conditions defined by legislation, and internet cafe managers must inform law enforcement bodies of suspected legal violations. Cybercafes are not allowed to use programs propagating violence, cruelty, or pornography, or to disseminate forbidden information. In July 2008, the head of the government’s high-tech crimes department reportedly warned cybercafe owners of their responsibility for messages sent by their customers.32 Additionally, Presidential Decree No. 60 calls for mandatory identification of users at internet cafes.
In general, it is difficult to gauge the extent to which Belarusian security services monitor internet and mobile-phone communications, but the surveillance is believed to be far-reaching. Those who engage in political activities avoid using e-mail accounts on Belarusian mail services. Many activists believe that members of the unregistered youth movement Zubr and the independent electoral observers’ group Partnership have been arrested because their e-mail correspondence was intercepted. There have also been a few cases in which personal entries in the popular blog system LiveJournal were hacked, and members of the special services are known to monitor popular online forums and communities. People who are concerned about surveillance also avoid using messaging services that use open protocols, like ICQ. There are even some who suspect that the Law of the Republic of Belarus No. 427 of July 7, 2008, “On the Facilities of Mass Information,” available in Russian at http://www.mininform.gov.by/documentation ; “Экспертыза новага закона «Аб СМІ»” [Analysis of the New Law on mass media], Belarusian Association of Journalists, http://baj.by/m-p-viewpub-tid-12-pid-5.html, accessed on July 9, 2010;
“International analysis of the Belarusian draft Law on information, informatization and information protection,” E-Belarus.org, March, 2007, http://www.e-belarus.org/article/infolaw.html.
“ Пролесковский знает, как зачистить интернет” [Proleskovsky knows how to clean up internet], Belaruspartisan.org, June 4, 2008, http://www.belaruspartisan.org/bp-forte/page=100&news=25145.
“Совет Министров Республики Беларусь Положения о порядке работы компьютерных клубов и Интернеткафе” (Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus. Regulations on computer clubs and internet cafe functioning), Pravo.by, April 29, 2010, http://pravo.by/webnpa/text.aspstart=1&RN=C20700175.
Mikhail Doroshevich, “Belarusian government adopts regulations on computer clubs and internet cafes”, E-Belarus.org, February 15, 2007, http://www.e-belarus.org/news/200702151.html.
BELARUS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net authorities secretly ask ISPs to change certain ADSL users’ address distribution from dynamic to static, allowing easy monitoring. Security services routinely use legal and extralegal means to collect internet and mobile-phone users’ records from ISPs, cybercafes, and mobile-phone companies in the course of their investigations. On the day of the December 2010 election, the government blocked international connections to ports and 465, thereby preventing users from securely sending e-mails and posting messages on social networking sites. In addition, mobile-phone providers reportedly assisted the authorities in tracking down opposition activists.
Armed with such information, it is much easier for the regime to harass or jail a particular writer, or to hack or restrict access to a certain website, than to introduce largescale content filtration. There have been a number of cases of arbitrary prosecution based on online journalistic activities. In 2005, a Grodno forum was “closed” by authorities because forum visitors were critically discussing the Belarusian president and his policies.33 In 2006, creators of satirical online cartoons on the president and politics were prosecuted under criminal law and had to flee the country.34 In August 2007, Andrei Klimau, a member of the opposition United Civic Party, was sentenced to two years in prison for calling for the overthrow of Lukashenka’s regime in an online article.35 Owners of the United Civic Party website were sued by a government official who claimed damage to his reputation because of an article on the site that accused his son of misdeeds.Most recently, several lawsuits were brought against Charter97, a pro-opposition news site based in Minsk. In March 2010, the KGB raided the website’s office and confiscated the computer equipment. A suit against the outlet was brought up the same month, but later dismissed. However, the outlet was the subject of another lawsuit initiated on December 8, apparently based on the materials discovered during the March raid, although the prosecutors refused to reveal under which law the case would be prosecuted.
During the year, the authorities also opened a criminal case against Charter97 alleging the publication’s liability for objectionable comments posted by its readers. 37 Finally, in the wake of the election crackdown on journalists and activists, Charter97 editor Natallya Radzina was detained on December 20 by the KGB and held without official charges and without access to an attorney.38 She was still in detention as of December 31.
Mikhail Doroshevich, “Internet Forum Closed Down in Grodno,” E-Belarus.org, March 14, 2005, http://www.ebelarus.org/news/200503141.html.
Материалы этого сайта размещены для ознакомления, все права принадлежат их авторам.
Если Вы не согласны с тем, что Ваш материал размещён на этом сайте, пожалуйста, напишите нам, мы в течении 1-2 рабочих дней удалим его.