Belarus Law Makes It Easier To Close Online Media

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

December 17, 2014

Lawmakers in Belarus have passed legislation allowing the state to close any Internet news site that receives two warnings about content in a single year.

Information Minister Liliya Ananich (eds: a woman), who presented the bill to the loyal parliament on December 17, said it will come into force on January 1.

The law does not require the official registration of online media outlets, but says the Information Ministry will monitor them "to ensure that materials used by the websites correspond to Belarusian legislation."

Website owners will be held responsible for their content.

The law also limits the foreign share of ownership of any news site to 20 percent, down from 30 percent under current law.

Western governments and opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accuse him of violating the freedom of the media during 20 years in power.

Authorities in several ex-Soviet republics have increased their control over broadcast and print media but have had a harder time suppressing dissent on the Internet.