Human rights centre fails to protect website in court

On February 19 Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered a complaint filed by Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of human rights centre Viasna (Spring), to challenge a decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office to blacklist the website as a resource with restricted access.

Mr Stefanovich contested violation of his rights as one of the authors of Viasna’s website, namely, illegal restriction on the dissemination of information. According to him, the Prosecutor’s Office had no reason to blacklist the website, as materials posted on it in no way violate the law, but on the contrary contribute to improving the legal culture.

The Prosecutor General’s position was based on the fact that the website contains information about the organization, which has not passed state registration in accordance with the law and, therefore, publication of such information is a violation of law. Representative of prosecuting authorities, Pavel Eliseyeu, said no complaints from citizens against information posted on the website were received, and the decision was the Prosecutor’s Office own initiative, launched under the President’s Decree No. 60 dealing with internet media. The representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office said that information on the website of Viasna promotes illegal activities, undermining the foundations of statehood, so the ban for public sector organizations to have free access to the resource is reasonable.

At the hearing, Pavel Eliseyeu said that if the Prosecutor’s Office had the ability to impose general restrictions on access to the website, the law enforcement agency would have implemented it.

During debates, Mr Stefanovich said that the representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office failed to explain what rights of citizens were violated through information that the applicant disseminated on “Our business is based on the principles of human rights. We support public policies to combat extremism, violence, ethnic, racial and other discrimination. I insist that the information that we disseminate in no way breaks the law. And the prosecutors did not provide any counterarguments,” says Viasna deputy chairman.

As a result, judge Alena Siamak found Valiantsin Stefanovich improper plaintiff, because he is not the owner of the website, and blacklisting the website did not violate his personal rights. In addition, the judge ruled to discontinue proceedings in the civil case. Valiantsin Stefanovich is not entitled to appealing the decision in cassation and supervisory procedures, but may file a private complaint within 10 days.

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