2010 11/03
Міклаш Харашці, АБСЭ

Miklash Harashtsi , OSCE

The document has already been sent to the Belarusian authorities. It lists both positive and negative aspects of the Ruling from the point of view of international experts in the field of freedom of expression.

Aforesaid information is said in the Regular Report that the Representative on Freedom of the Mass Media OSCE Miklash Harashtsi prepared for the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Report was presented on 4 March.

According to the analysis of OSCE experts, the Presidential Ruling No. 60 “On measures to improve the use of national segment of Internet”, signed on 1 February 2010, contains a number of positive aspects, in particular:

- Information about government and other public institutions will be more accessible to citizens (including journalists) because the Ruling provides for the responsibility of these institutions for non-placing of information about their activities on their sites;

- Copyright in Internet will be protected;

- The providers of Internet services will pass the state registration by means of application principle;

- The providers of Internet services will not be responsible for the information posted in Internet.

“With regard to these favorable provisions of the Ruling, much will depend on how they will be applied – the report said. – The legal instruments that will be applied, should exclude the risk of limiting Internet freedom in Belarus.”

The main reasons for concern, expressed by the experts of the OSCE deal with the following provisions of the Ruling:

- The Ruling obliges the owners and administrators of Internet clubs to identify the visitors, collect these records and personal data of users. The same rule applies to the user’s hardware, which are used to connect to Internet.

- It is not clear who and how will determine the nature of the information, to which the access could be restricted. Determination of the types of harmful information under Belarusian law allows the legal ambiguity of categories.

- In case of inability to fulfill orders of the proper organ to correct the violation or termination of the provision of Internet services, responsibility for the content switches to the providers of Internet services, owners and administrators of places of collective use of Internet.

- Converting of information to be posted on the websites of government and other public institutions is very limited.

- The Ruling requires that the mass media, which are distributed via Internet, should have the hyper links to the source of information. This is an additional requirement to the editors, which can not be performed when the original source is not Internet.

Taking into account the aforesaid and the fact that the specific rules for applying the provisions of the Ruling will be elaborated before 1 May, OSCE expert made a number of recommendations that meet OSCE commitments to mass media freedom. Here is a list of these recommendations:

- To abolish the compulsory identification of users of Internet services and their hardware to connect to Internet;

- To explain the importance and the procedure for imposing restrictions on the distribution of prohibited information;

- To explain the responsibilities of providers of Internet services in the case of inability to fulfill orders of the proper organ to correct the violations or termination of the provision of Internet services;

- To consider the possibility of requests for authorities and other government agencies to publish information not only about their activities, but also about the outcome of this activity;

- To abolish the requirement to include a hyperlink to the source of information in the mass media, which are distributed via Internet.

“I hope that these suggestions will be considered in the further development of legislation that deals with Internet in Belarus – said Miklash Harashti. – My office will continue to assist Belarus in reforming the law on mass media. We are ready to organize a roundtable discussion on the law of Internet with the Belarusian authorities.”

Source: BAJ press-service.

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