Belarus mulls over more control over online media

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The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has received a draft of amendments to several Belarusian laws from the House of Representatives. Most of the amendments are related to the Law on Mass Media, the BAJ press service reports.

Online news outlets can become registered mass media if needed. Online outlets will be registered similarly as traditional mass media, i.e. only a legal entity can be the editorial office; the newsroom must be located on non-residential premises; the editor-in-chief must be a Belarusian citizen with 5 years of experience in mass media management. The limited rights of traditional mass media will be given to online outlets if they get registered.

The other news websites will also be able to function but they will not be treated as mass media. It means their employees will not be accredited by the authorities, they will not able to use journalist rights at mass rallies and to protect information sources. Meanwhile, responsibility will be imposed on all Internet resources.

Internet resources may still be blocked without a warning. Online outlets may lose their registration without a court procedure. People leaving comments on websites and forums will have to show their identity. The amendments imply that obligatory moderation of Internet resources can be introduced. Authorities will also be able to block social networks.

“The changes to the Law on Mass Media are aimed at strengthening the control over mass media in Belarus,” BAJ chairperson Andrei Bastunets reckons. The Belarusian Association of Journalists is planning to send its remarks regarding the draft to the House of Representatives.