Authoritarian Belarus Government Further Tightens Access to Internet

By Ashok Bindra January 06, 2012

The former Soviet republic of Belarus is further trying to repress its citizens by tightening control over access to Internet. Yahoo! New reports that the authoritarian government of Belarus has passed a new law that requires service providers to monitor users and report them to authorities if they visit blacklisted websites.

Associated Press reporter Yuras Karmanau wrote that media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders has condemned the new law, saying, “the government's escalating control of the Internet adds new weapons of repression.”

According to this report, the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko has been in office since 1994. Since taking control, media reports indicate that he has been consistently suppressing the opposition and cracking down on independent media. In fact, some in Western rights group have labeled the Belarus president as "Europe's last dictator,” wrote Karmanau.

As per the Yahoo! News report, the new Belarusian law now bans the country’s businessmen from utilizing external Internet resources, such as online stores registered in foreign countries. The new legal revisions now requires “Internet service providers to monitor users and report them to authorities if they visit opposition websites blacklisted by the government,” wrote Karmanau.

The Yahoo! News report indicates that international observers have been very critical of president Lukashenko’s re-election to office in December 2010, which was fraudulent. As a result, there have been massive anti-government protests in the country, which have been viciously suppressed by the police. About 700 people were arrested and some of them are still in jail, including presidential candidates Andrei Sannikov and Nikolai Statkevich, wrote Karmanau.

In a statement sent to the press, Reporters Without Borders said, "This reinforcement of censorship is a survival reflex on the part of a government weakened by the unrest that followed president Lukashenko's disputed re-election in December 2010."

In its annual report on "Enemies of the Internet," Reporters Without Borders have listed Belarus as a country under surveillance. It was ranked 154th out of 178 countries in the 2010 press freedom index, wrote Karmanau.

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Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

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