Belarus - Media bill approved by lower house on second reading



    MONTREAL, June 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns the
haste with which the chamber of representatives has approved a new media bill.
It was passed on second reading yesterday with three minor modifications.
Media will no longer have to renew their registration with the authorities if
they change address. The definition of "correspondent centre" has been
modified and clause covering misrepresentation has been withdrawn.
    "This is a repressive bill for independent media and for websites, which
for the first time will be covered by a media law in Belarus," Reporters
Without Borders said. "Online media will now be subject to the same control as
newspapers and radio and TV stations. The Internet has until now been one of
the few spaces where Belarusians could express themselves freely. We fear that
censorship will be stepped up."
    Natallya Pyatkevich, a member of the lower house and spokesperson for the
presidential office, said in a TV interview on 23 June that it was technically
impossible to "purge the Internet" of its content. The bill stipulates that
website activity will henceforth be regulated by government decrees instead of
laws.
    Belarus Association of Journalists lawyer Mikhail Pastukhu said the
government was trying to get the bill adopted as quickly as possible in order
to avoid a public debate and criticism. It still has to be approved by the
upper house and signed by the president before it takes effect.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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