Belarus: Internet restrictions take effect

Internet restrictions passed in February 2010 are set to go into effect in Belarus on Jan. 6, amid international criticism. The law creates several tiers of limitations on use of the Internet. Anyone who owns a shared connection, or a cyber-cafe, must monitor all users to insure that they do not visit a “blacklisted” site, or, in some cases, simply a site hosted off of Belarus servers. Users are required to identify themselves, and the owners of shared connections must keep a surfing history of each user for at least a year. Violations of any of these provisions may result in fines.

The State Inspection on Electronic Communications, an agency of the Ministry of Communications and Informatization, will issue the blacklist, which thus far includes pornography, websites that advocate violence or extremism, opposition group sites and some Belarusian news organizations. The law largely deals with the fines and penalties for those designated to monitor networks and is ambiguous on what will be done to users who manage to see restricted material. Reporters without Borders condemned the new law, describing it as, “a survival reflex on the part of a government weakened by the unrest that followed President Lukashenko’s disputed re-election.”

Belarus has been under increasing criticism for what many see as a rapid decline of human rights in the Eastern European nation. US President Barack Obama on Jan. 3 signed the Belarus Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2011, which will impose new sanctions on Belarus. The new sanctions require the US to investigate Belarus’ arms deals and its possible censorship of the Internet, as well as denying visas to a list of Belarusian officials. In November a Belarus court convicted human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the president of Viasana and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), of tax evasion, sentencing him to a four-and-a-half-year prison term amid international criticism.

From Jurist, Jan. 6. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Belarus and the politics of cyberspace.

  1. Bad as this is…
    I doubt it’s unique in any way.
    I presume that many countries, such as China, Iran, Syria, Burma, & Cuba have similar restrictions.

    I also believe that it will only take another serious military or terrorist strike against America to impose similar restrictions (absent the pornography ones) here.
    The creation of a blacklist of sites is, in fact, being advocated by the proponents of a new law in the Congress aimed at forcing I.S.P.s to block sites offering content which infringes on U.S. intellectual property laws.