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Statement by the Congress of the Belarusian Association of Journalists on changes to the Law on Mass Media

23.04.2018 Source: Belarusian Association of Journalists

On 19 April, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly passed in its first reading a draft law providing for introduction of major changes in the media legislation.

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The draft law poses risks for society and the media sector. In particular, it provides for:

  • Voluntary registration of online resources as mass media (the term "online media” has been introduced). The online media and their staff will receive (to a limited extent) the rights of traditional media. However, only a corporate entity, which is located in a non-residential property and has an editor with more than five years of relevant experience, can register a media outlet;

  • The journalistic status of staff of online media, which fail to register as mass media, will be put in question. The journalists of such media will not be able to enjoy the rights to the protection of information sources and to the work at public events. Meanwhile, the unregistered online publications will be subject to all the duties and responsibilities of online media;

  • The work of freelance journalists will become even more complicated;

  • The ability to block certain social networking sites completely, if there is no technical possibility to restrict access to parts of them;

  • The mandatory identification of the commentators on the forums will be introduced; there is a provision for the mandatory content moderation of online resources, the absence of which may lead to blocking.

Comments and suggestions of the Belarusian Association of Journalists have not been taken into account during the consideration of this draft law. Suggestions of other representatives of the media sector have also not been heard. No international examination of the draft has been carried out.

In this regard, we call upon the Belarusian authorities to:

  • discuss the proposed changes to the media legislation with the participation of Belarusian and international experts, representatives of the media sector, business and society;

  • revise the draft law in its second reading taking into account all the opinions (including the comments and suggestions of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which were submitted to the House of Representatives);

  • recognise the right of freelancers to collect and disseminate information in domestic and foreign media.

 

20 April 2018

Congress of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

 

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