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Belarus introduces sweeping restrictions on journalists and activists

Source: Pravo.by

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) has signed amendments to the law on mass events, which, among other things, prohibit journalists from covering unauthorized rallies in real time, the country’s National Legal Portal (Pravo.by) announced on May 24.

The amendments also forbid journalists from acting as organizers or participants in mass events “while performing their duties.”

In addition, the changes prohibit raising, receiving, or using funds and other assets (such as the performance of work or the provision of services) to cover expenses incurred due to prosecution for violating the procedure for holding mass gatherings. In other words, activists will no longer be able to raise funds to support protesters and others detained during unsanctioned rallies. 

Also on May 24, Lukashenko signed amendments to the law on mass media, which, among other things, prohibit the press from publishing the results of unauthorized public opinion polls related to the socio-political situation in the country (conducting these types of surveys will require official accreditation). Media outlets are also forbidden from including hyperlinks to messages and materials containing “banned information” in their articles. 

The changes to the media law also prohibit foreigners, stateless persons, foreign legal entities and legal entities with foreign shareholders from being the founders of mass media outlets “regardless of the time of their creation,” writes the Belarusian state news agency BelTA. 

The media law was also amended to allow the authorities to restrict access to the “mirror sites” of previously blocked Internet portals. 

The amendments to the laws on mass events and on the media will enter into force one month after their official publication.

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