The amendments introduce the definitions of ‘online media outlet’, ‘web resource’ and ‘owner of a web resource’, as well as regulate the functioning of web-based media.
98 deputies voted for passing the amendments, two were against them.
Moreover, lawmakers added more items to the black list which bans certain types of information from distributing in Belarus and limited the ‘foreign involvement’ in the formation of the Belarusian information space.
In accordance with the amendments, only those online resources that voluntarily applied for registration in the Ministry of information and obtained it meet the definition ‘online media outlets’. The journalists working for such a resource will enjoy the same rights as conventional media workers.
The updated media law does not provide for any restrictions for the work and activity of websites and portals that do not want to register. In this case, however, a company will not get a media outlet status; its staff will not be considered journalists by the Belarusian authorities.
From now on, there will be compulsory moderation of comments as well as identification of commentators/publishers in the Belarusian segment of the Internet. Futhermore, the updated law provides for the blockage of social media if they fail to meet the demand to delete information.
Commenting on the amendments, Natallya Radzina, editor-in-chief of Charter-97 news website, suggested that Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka was rooting out the last bits of the freedom of speech in Belarus. The journalist fears that the entire information space in Belarus will be placed under the ‘Russian world’, under the influence of Russian propaganda.