Belarus Interior Minister praises draconian measures on web

One must answer for their wrongdoings, Belarusian Interior Minister Ihar Shunevich said in an interview with the state-run TV channel Belarus 1.

“Let’s face it, the Internet is now a venue for completely irresponsible behavior, statements, opinions, insults, slandering, committing a number of specific criminal offenses, administrative offenses. A person must bear responsibility for every action, especially if it infringes someone else’s rights and interests. In view of the above, I consider the decision to identify all the participants [in web discussions] appropriate, correct and timely. It means that there will be a certain barrier to lawlessness,” he stressed.

On December 1, a new law on mass media will come into force. It is expected to provide for compulsory identification of website visitors: the state wants to know names, addresses and telephone numbers of those who leave comments below posts and articles.

In addition, the document will set equal web news resources staff to traditional mass media workers. According to the law, if e-newspapers and magazines voluntarily seek and get registration by the Information Ministry, they will be recognised ‘online editions’ . But if they are denied registration, they could not have the status of mass media and their employees will not be taken for reporters by the authorities.

Moreover, Belarusian officials will gain the right to block web pages at short notice.