TUT.BY received a draft law on potential amendments to the laws on the media. It is proposed to block internet resources for information aimed “at promoting extremist activity” and materials that may “lead to the emergence of threats to national security.”
Journalists may be stripped of accreditation for “illegal act” while on duty
According to the proposed draft law, a media journalist is prohibited from using his position to disseminate information in order to defame any citizen on grounds of gender, age, race or nationality, language, religion, profession, place of residence or work, political convictions, as well as discredit government agencies and other organizations.
In addition, a journalist may be deprived of accreditation if he or the editorial board violated a prescribed procedure for accreditation or disseminated false information discrediting the business reputation of the organization that accredited him, as well as if the journalist committed a deliberate illegal act in the course of his professional activities.
It is proposed to introduce a responsibility of the journalist to obtain the consent of the editor-in-chief for the preparation of information messages or materials for use in other media or on internet resources. Among the proposals is that the name of the online outlet should coincide with the domain name of the internet resource.
Publication of survey results may be prohibited
In the media and on internet resources, it is proposed to prohibit the publication of the results of public opinion polls related to the socio-political situation in the country, republican referendums, presidential elections, deputies, if they were held without appropriate accreditation. The publication of the results of such surveys in the document is classified as information, the dissemination of which is prohibited, which entails a number of legal consequences.
Also, hyperlinks to information messages containing information prohibited for distribution are classified as prohibited information. The legal entity entrusted with the functions of the media editorial office, according to the document, must not allow the dissemination of false information that may harm state or public interests. The document proposes to expand the list of grounds for issuing a written warning to the media outlet.
The proposed draft law establishes the requirement to use a hyperlink when distributing information on the internet that was previously published on another resource (unless otherwise provided for by the copyright holder). Moreover, according to the document, a written warning may be issued for reprinting materials in violation of the distribution conditions stipulated by the original source.
Media can be deprived of their credentials without a court decision
It is proposed to grant the authority to take a decision on the termination of the release of media by the Ministry of Information in the event that the media and the owner of the online outlet issue two or more written warnings within a year, as well as in the event that the Interdepartmental Commission on Information Security under the Security Council of Belarus decides that Mass media of materials and messages, the dissemination of which can lead to the emergence of threats to national security. In substantiating the need for the adoption of the draft law, this is argued by the need to “reduce the burden on the judiciary” and “promptly suppress the dissemination of illegal information.”
The same decision by the Interdepartmental Commission on Security in the Information Sphere under the Security Council of Belarus is proposed to be made another reason for restricting access to an internet resource, an online outlet. In addition, the Ministry of Information may decide to restrict access to an internet resource if two or more demands of the ministry were issued during the year, and two or more written warnings regarding the online outlet.
It is also proposed to grant powers to make decisions on restricting access to an internet resource and an online outlet by a resolution of the Prosecutor General, prosecutors of regions and Minsk for disseminating information “aimed at promoting extremist activities or containing calls for such activities”, as well as information the dissemination of which is capable of harming the national interests of the country.
The decision to restrict access can be made within 6 months after the grounds arise both in relation to internet resources and in relation to online outlets. Previously, a period of 3 months was set for online outlets. The document also proposes to block access to internet resources that are confusingly similar to those to which access is restricted.
In the proposed draft law, the term of the prohibition on the right to act as a founder of a media outlet for an individual was increased from three to five years after its release was terminated on the grounds specified in the law. A similar ban is established for legal entities. For internet resources, in respect of which a decision was made to restrict access, a ban has been established to be a founder of a media outlet for three years. In addition, the obligatory condition of Belarusian citizenship for editors-in-chief is cancelled.
Among the reasons for refusing state registration or re-registration as a media, the following may appear: the name of the media coincides or is confusingly similar to the name of the outlet in respect of which the termination decision was made, if the name of the online outlet does not coincide with the domain name of the internet resource, and also if the editor-in-chief does not have the right to occupy this position according to the same law.
Journalists may be equated with rally participants
“In the upcoming amendments to the law on mass media, if an event is not permitted by law, then any journalist present there is no longer a journalist, but simply a citizen who participates in an unauthorized event. I think this is correct. What is there to comment on, you have to be loyal, you have to be law-abiding,” said chairman of the public association Belaya Rus Gennady Davydko.
It is worth noting that this may not be a final version of the draft law. Such a document has not been submitted to the parliament, the press service reports. Such a document does not appear in the list of bills pending before the commission on human rights, ethnic relations and the media.
Judging by the data from the document, the Ministry of Information was engaged in its development. The Department of Legal Support and Control over Compliance with the Legislation of the Ministry of Information declined to comment on the preparation of a draft law on amending laws on mass media.
The document, which is at the disposal of the TUT.BY editors, bears the signature of the Minister of Information Igor Lutsky. However, the head of the Ministry of Information himself could not confirm or deny the information that the department had prepared such a document.