Commentary on the Decree On Measures to Improve the Use of the National Segment of the Internet

Having analyzed the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 60 “On Measures to
Improve the Use of the National Segment of the Internet” of 1 February 2010 in the context of
the Constitution and current legislation of the Republic of Belarus, as well as of international
regulations on freedom of information and the Internet, the expert commissioned by the Office of
the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has come to the following conclusions.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE COMMENTARY AND
RECOMMENDATIONS

The Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 60 “On Measures to Improve the Use
of the National Segment of the Internet” is aimed at protecting the interests of citizens, society,
and the state in the information sphere and ensuring further development of the national segment
of the Internet. It contains 16 paragraphs and was signed by President Alyaxandr Lukashenka on
1 February 2010. The Decree will come into force on 1 July 2010.

The Decree contains several requirements that call for making information about state bodies and
other government organizations more accessible on the Internet. The Decree contains several
provisions aimed at protecting authorship rights on the Internet. It envisages state licensing of
information networks and resources of the national segment of the Internet on the territory of
Belarus which providers of Internet services must undergo by applying to the Ministry of
Communications and Informatization of the Republic of Belarus or its authorized organization.
Providers of Internet services shall identify the subscriber units of Internet service users, as well
as keep an account of and save information on such units and the Internet services rendered.
They shall also submit this information to law enforcement agencies.

The Decree regulates the mechanism for restricting access to information at the request of an
Internet service user regarding information that is aimed at spreading pornography, promulgating
violence and brutality, or any other acts prohibited by the law.

The Decree addresses issues that relate to obtaining and disseminating information on the
Internet, which cannot help but have an effect on the activity of journalists in Belarus and on the
freedom of the media.

The Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus contains several provisions aimed at
enhancing freedom of information on the Internet. In particular, it envisages again (following the
Law of the Republic of Belarus On Information, Informatization and Protection of Information,
2008) the obligation of state bodies and government organization to post information about their
activities on Internet sites. The providers of Internet services are not held responsible for the
contents of the information placed on the Internet.

However the merits of the Decree are ambiguous and are outweighed by shortcomings that
restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the media on the Internet.
The following provisions of the Decree “On Measures to Improve the Use of the National
Segment of the Internet” arouse particular concern:

· The demand for mandatory identification of users of subscriber units and users of Internet
services.
· The vaguely defined restrictions and prohibitions on spreading illegal information and the
procedure for implementing them.

· The unclear responsibility of the provider of information on the Internet in the event the
instructions of a corresponding body to remove identified violations or its demands to
halt Internet services are not carried out.
· The absence of any obligation on the part of state bodies to place not only information
about their own activities on the Internet, but also share information that has been
acquired or created as a result of such activities.
· The obligation that information reports and/or media articles disseminated via the Internet
must include hyperlinks to the original source of the information or to the media agency
that previously placed it.
OSCE