The Parliament of Belarus passed a number of amendments to the legislation that significantly impair the activity of the media. It will become more difficult for Belarusian and foreign media to work in the country.
In particular, the upper house of the National Assembly, the Council of the Republic, approved amendments to local laws on mass media and mass assemblies. According to them, the country should introduce a ban on coverage of unauthorised protests, restrictions on creation of media outlets, and other measures to restrict freedom of the press.
For these amendments to take effect, they must be approved by the Constitutional Court and then signed by the illegitimate President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka.
According to the Institute of Mass Information data, the amendments to the law on mass media are:
- permit the Ministry of Information to block the activity of a media outlet or an Internet resource without a court order if they have received at least two written warnings within one year or published something that allegedly threatens national security as formulated by the Interdepartmental Commission on Information Security;
- permit the country’s Prosecutor General and regional prosecutors to block access to any websites that disseminate information that they believe to be “aimed at promoting extremist activities” or otherwise “capable of harming national interests;”
- prohibit the media from “disseminating inaccurate information that may harm the state and public interests” (according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the explanation of such information is “blurred”);
- demand that online media outlets must use a website address that matches the name of organisation (according to Oleg Ageyev, this may be a measure to combat the use of “mirror domains” in which the website’s content is duplicated in other web domains);
- prohibit any individual or news agency as a legal entity from opening new news agencies within five years after the authorities closed other affiliated outlets (a three-year ban for online media outlets);
- prohibit news agencies and websites from publishing results of polls on political, social or electoral issues if these polls were conducted without state accreditation.