This report captures the key developments concerning civil society in Belarus during the period of November 2009 - June 2010. It is the sixth of a series designed to inform policymakers about developments in Belarus during the ongoing EU-Belarus Dialogue Process. This report was prepared through the joint efforts of more than 50 Belarusian and international civil society organizations1.

In September, the EU will again consider its future relations with Belarus and the possibility of sanctions. Belarusian civil society suggests that the EU pay attention to the following seven issues in order to promote more tangible and consistent change:

· The new Internet regulations;
· Insufficient amendments to electoral legislation;
· Continuous repression against unregistered organizations and failure to repeal Article
193-1 of the Criminal Code;
· Excessive oversight of registered civic organizations and media outlets;
· The forthcoming law on “Non-commercial organizations”;
· New political prisoners; and
· New death penalty verdicts.

1Compiled by the Assembly of Belarusian Prodemocratic NGOs, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki
Committee, Committee for Defence of the Repressed „Salidarnasc”, Human Rights Center “Viasna” in cooperation with the Belarusian
Robert Schuman Society and the Belarusian International Implementers (BIIM) group.

The present conditions in the country will not allow Belarusian media to provide voters with objective and up-to-date information and to become a platform for open discussion of election programs of different candidates.

New Laws
Decree No. 60, which is to take force on 1 July 2010, covers “a wide range of spheres dealing with the Internet”2. It regulates e-commerce and e-services provided by companies, based in Belarus, sets common standards for state institutions’ websites, as well as contains a number of clauses aimed at copyright protection and prevention of Internet ‘piracy’. However, the Decree also provides for new possibilities to restrict user privacy. According to the decree3 all online access devices such as computers and mobile phones, as well as all internet café users, are to be identified and registered with Internet Service Providers. The providers are obliged to store the data on the Internet use of individuals for a full year and to hand that information over to law-enforcement agencies upon request. It also requires Internet service providers to block access to any website within 24 hours of being asked to do so by government regulators.

The President’s signing the Decree was described by Lutz Guellner, spokesman for the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton as “a significant step in the wrong direction.”4
Registration of publications and free dissemination of information The much-feared process of re-registration of media outlets, as required by the new Law on Mass Media, finished on 8 February 2010 and has not resulted in any politically motivated non-registrations. At the same time, at least eight new non-state newspapers were refused registration since February as the Ministry of Information introduced additional restrictions for registration of new media outlets, which are not provided for in the Media Law. Moreover, ten independent publications still have no possibility to be distributed through Belsayuzdruk, the state monopoly retail press distribution system, and the Belposhta subscription catalogue.

Foreign accreditation

On 11 November 2009 the Belarusian MFA registered the European Radio for Belarus and allowed it to open its office in Minsk for one year. At the same time, on 8 December, the Belarusian MFA turned down the application for registration from BelSat, a Polish Television
satellite channel broadcasting in Belarusian, for the second time, justifying its decision by the fact that its correspondents had previously reported from Belarus without official registration and accreditation.

Impediments for independent journalists

The persecution of independent journalists continues. The police conducted a series of searches and interrogations of journalists in connection with the legal investigation of a defamation suit, filed by Ivan Korzh, ex-Head of KGB Department for Homiel region, on
December 31, 2009 against militia officers who have provided journalists with false information. The professional equipment of journalists from Charter97, “Narodnaya Volya” and “Novaya Gazeta”, who are only witnesses in the case, has been confiscated. Repressive
measures were also applied to Ivan Shulha, who served 10-day administrative arrest for petty hooliganism on 4 February 2010. All of the aforementioned journalists are members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the only legal independent entity of journalists, which, on 13 January 2010 received a warning from the Ministry of Justice, upheld by the Supreme Court, putting the Association at risk of being closed down for any alleged misconduct. The Ministry warned BAJ about the inadmissibility of including the word “Press” on its
membership IDs, the incompatibility of the activity of its Legal Center for Media Protection with “the statutes of the organization” and the discrepancy between BAJ objectives as presented on its website and in its statute.

2 Chavusau, Y. (2010). Soon there will be less privacy in Belarusian Internet. BelarusInfo Letter, 3, 1-2.
3 BAJ analysis of Decree 60
4 Radio Free Europe, February 4, 2010.

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Prepared through the joint efforts of more than 50 Belarusian and international civil society organizations