Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has added Belarus, along with Bahrain, to its list of «Enemies of the Internet,» accusing Alexander Lukashenka of strengthening his grip on the Web. The 2012 list includes 12 countries (Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Belarus). According to RSF, their authorities have been restricting freedom of Internet users in the severest way.
Last year, Belarus was on the group’s second-tier list of countries under surveillance.
The report reads that in response to protest actions organized by the «Revolution through Social Networks» group the Belarusian authorities began to take the offensive on the Internet. They pursued the offensive through legislation. Following Decree 60 of February 2010, Law 317-3, which took effect in Belarus on 8 January 2012, reaffirmed Internet surveillance and reinforced Net censorship in Belarus with a repressive arsenal. Already included among the main provisions of Decree 60 of February 2010 was the obligation of ISPs and cybercafés to collect Internet users’ personal data and conduct citizen surveillance, and the option for authorities to order the blocking of any site deemed «extremist» (a vague definition which regularly leads to the overblocking and closure of opposition websites). The new law provides sanctions against those who violate such provisions. Although non-commercial entities do not seem to be directly affected by the part of the law which requires Belarusian company websites to be hosted or duly registered in the country, the authorities may still draw up a list of banned sites controlled by state bodies.
Formerly Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka was repeatedly ranked by Reporters Without Borders to the enemies of the Internet.